17 October 2013

A little piece on Bosnia-Herzegovina

Being a football fan, I like to take inspiration from my favourite sport (e.g. here) and this week is no different. It's been World Cup 2014 qualification week and whilst I am delighted that England have qualified, I also like to see new teams qualify for the big stage too.

Brazil 2014 will see the first appearance of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

To be accurate, Bosnian players could have appeared for Yugoslavia in 1930, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1974, 1982 and 1990. There are also three other possible first-timers still in the hunt for qualification, although I feel their participation is unlikely.

Enough football and allow me to take a look at the IP landscape in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Institute of Intellectual Property manages intellectual property in the country. Delays are known to be encountered with the processing of trade mark applications filed locally although these have lessened of late.

International routes for trade mark protection and industrial design protection through the Madrid and Hague Systems are available. I was therefore quite surprised to see a large number of national design and trade mark applications from foreigners in the latest Gazette published on their website.

Bosnia-Herzegovina adopted a new trade mark law at the beginning of 2011. This introduced an opposition procedure. Previously, it relied on its relative and absolute grounds examination - this made a large contribution to the delays that were experienced. It also formalised procedures for making registration with Customs for IP rights.

EU accession would appear to be a goal for Bosnia-Herzegovina, but it is far behind other countries in the region. Croatia and Slovenia are already in the EU and Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are official candidate countries. Even Albania is ahead in the queue having submitted an application.

Croatia's recent accession to the EU means Bosnia-Herzegovina borders the European Union. To the naked eye, Bosnia-Herzegovina can appear to be landlocked on a map, but it actually has a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea around the town of Neum, which juts into Croatia. This makes the territory around the city of Dubrovnik an isolated exclave of Croatia and of the EU. Travelling to this part of the EU from another part of the EU by road therefore means traversing some territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The horrific Bosnian War of the 1990s ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accord which set up Bosnia-Herzegovina as a federal state. There are two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (mostly inhabited by Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats) and the Republika Srpska (mostly inhabited by ethnic Serbs). It's a jigsaw of a country where the internal borders have been meticulously drawn. On the ground, political conflicts between the two entities are common though.

So much so that it would cause little surprise if Republika Srpska were to declare independence. This would fracture the region even more and, selfishly speaking, we would have another IP jurisdiction on our hands. One that might not be entirely welcome in the international arena (see also Kosovo).

Perhaps if they can have a successful 2014 World Cup, this will be a unifying experience for Bosnia-Herzegovina.