Intellectual & Industrial Property

Intellectual and Industrial Property in Bulgaria is protected by a comprehensive legal framework which includes primary and secondary national legislation, international agreements and conventions, and EU regulations and directives. Various EU directives protecting inventions, trade marks, industrial design and plant varieties were transposed into national legislation which is a certain guarantee that intellectual property protection in Bulgaria is at the EU level.

Bulgarian law affords protection of copyright for the author’s whole life and further, 70 years after his or her death. The copyright over literary, artistic and scientific works arise with the creation of the work. The author has exclusive right over his/her work.

The Patent Office is the state body entrusted with the task of assessing and deciding on matters related to the protection of intellectual property. The Patent Office maintains various registers.

Inventions and Utility Models;

Creation, protection and use of patentable inventions and of utility models are governed by the Patents and Utility Models Act (referred as “PUMA”).

The Patent Office maintains the State Patents Register, the State Utility Models Register and the State Supplementary Protection Certificates Register. All applications for reception of legal protection under Patents and Utility Models Act are recorded in these registers. The state registers are public. Applications for patents to the Patent Office must be submitted in person or through an authorized local industrial property representative. If a company is not permanently registered in Bulgaria, it needs to employ a local representative. Electronic applications are submitted only if the paper versions are handed in up to a month following the electronic submission.

Three major requirements should be present for an invention to be granted a patent - namely, the invention should be new, should involve an inventive step and should be susceptible to industrial application.

The patent grants legal protection to a patentable invention and certifies the exclusive right of the proprietor of the patent over the invention. The scope of the legal protection is determined by the claims. The patent applies with regard to third parties as from the date of publication about its issuing in the official journal of the Patent Office. The term of a patent is twenty years and starts from the date of filing the application.

The exclusive right over the invention includes the right to use the invention, the prohibition for third parties to use the invention without the consent of the proprietor of the patent and the right to dispose with the patent. The exclusive rights over an invention that has been granted by virtue of a patent does not extend to actions undertaken with a protected product that has been released on the market of the European Economic Area by the holder of the patent or with his consent.

The right to use a patent includes the production, offering for sale, trade with the object of the invention, including its exportation, utilization of the object of the invention, as well as the application of the patented method. However, a person who has used in good faith an invention or has made the necessary preparations for its use prior to the date of filing of the patent application may continue to use the invention after the said date within the same volume.

The effect of the patent does not cover the use of the patented invention for non-commercial purposes with a view of satisfying the personal needs, as long as this does not result in significant financial losses for the holder of the patent; the use of the invention for experimental and research purposes related to the object of the invented invention; single and direct participation of a medicine at a pharmacy upon prescription; use of the patented invention in foreign land, maritime and air vehicles which cross the country’s land, sea or air borders temporarily or accidentally, provided that the patented invention is used exclusively for the needs of the said vehicles.

Applications for European patent may be submitted to the Bulgarian Patent Office or to the European Patents Office in Munich, or its branch office in The Hague. The European patent which refers to the Republic of Bulgaria confers to its proprietor, as of the date of the announcement of its issuing in the European patents journal, the privileges under PUMA, if within three months of this date a translation in Bulgarian of the description and the claims is submitted in three copies and the publication fees are paid.

Legal protection of a utility model is provided through registration in the Patent Office. A utility model is considered new providing it is not part of the state of art. The term of validity of utility model registration is 4 (four) years from the date of the filing of the application.

Any disputes which are related to the creation, protection and use of inventions and utility models may be resolved by administrative proceedings, in court or through arbitration.

Marks and Geographical Indications;

The registration of marks and geographical indications, the rights arising from the registration and the protection of these rights are regulated by the Marks and Geographical Indications Act. The Patent Office maintains the State Register of Marks and the State Register of Geographical Indications. These registers are public as well.

Mark is a sign that is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of other persons and can be represented graphically. Such signs may be words, including the names of persons, or letters, numerals, drawings, figures, the shape of the article or the packaging thereof, a combination of colours, sound signals, or any combination of such elements. The right to a mark is acquired by registration, reckoned from the filing date of the application. The applicant enjoys a right of priority over subsequent applications for identical or similar marks in respect of identical or similar goods or services as from the date of filing of the application at the Patent Office. The applicant enjoys right of priority as from the date of a preceding application, provided that the application is filled in a due form in a member state of the World Trade Organization or in state party to Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, signed in Paris on 20 March 1883, as revised and amended. The right to a mark is an exclusive right.

The right to a mark includes a right of the proprietor of the mark to use and dispose of the mark, and to prohibit other parties from unauthorized use in the course of trade of any sign which is identical with the mark of any goods or services that are identical with those for which the mark is registered; because of its identity with or similarity to the mark, and because of the identity or similarity of the goods or services covered by the mark with or to the sign, there exists a likelihood of confusion on the part of users, including the likelihood of association of the sign with the mark; or is identical with or similar to the mark of goods or services that are not identical with or similar to those for which the mark is registered, where the earlier mark has a reputation in the territory of Bulgaria and where the use of the sign without due cause would take unfair advantage of, or be detrimental to, the distinctive character or the repute of the earlier mark.

The right to a mark may be transferred, independently of the transfer of the commercial enterprise, in respect of all or some of the goods or services for which the mark is registered. In respect of jointly held marks, the right to a mark is transferred with the written consent of all joint proprietors, unless they agree otherwise. A transfer should be duly recorded in the State Register of Marks.

The proprietor of a mark may authorize the use of the mark in respect of all or some of the goods or services for which the mark is registered, and in respect of the whole or of part of the territory of Bulgaria by virtue of a written license agreement.

The duration of registration of a mark is ten years, reckoned from the filing date of the application. A registration may be renewed for an unlimited number of further ten-year periods according to the established procedures.

A community mark is a mark which is registered in the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (trade marks and designs) under the terms and according to the procedure established by Regulation (EC) No 207/2009. The Community trade mark has effect on the territory of Bulgaria and its proprietor enjoys the rights under respective national legislation. Application for Community trade mark may be filed either in the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market or in the Bulgarian Patent Office.

Names of origin or indications for origin are considered geographical indications. First, a name of origin is the name of a country, or of a region or a specific location within that country, serving to designate goods that originate therein, and whose quality or characteristics are due essentially or exclusively to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors. Second, an indication of source is the name of a country, or of a region or a specific locality within that country, serving to designate goods that originate therein and whose quality, reputation or another characteristic is attributable to that place of origin. Geographical indications are granted legal protection through registration with the Patent Office.

The proprietor of a mark and the holder of an exclusive license have independent right of action for infringement. Administrative penalties are enforced on persons infringing rights under the Marks and Geographical Indications Act.

Industrial Designs;

Industrial designs are covered by the Industrial Design Act (referred as “IDA”). In this respect, the Patent Office maintains the State Register of Industrial Designs which is public.

Industrial design is the visible appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the characteristic features of the shape, lines, contours, ornamentation, colours, or a combination of all these.

A person who has created an industrial design has the right of authorship over this design. When an industrial design is created by more than one person, all persons are considered as joint designers and they all have authorship right. This right of authorship is unlimited in time and not transferable, and enjoys protection under IDA without prejudice to the protection it may be afforded under other legislation as well.

The right to an industrial design is acquired by means of registration of this design in the Patent Office as from the date of the filing of an application for registration. The right to an industrial design is exclusive. There are two prerequisites for an industrial design to be registered by the Patent Office, namely, the design must be new and original.

All rights under the IDA may be transferred unless IDA specifies otherwise and any transfer is recorded in the State Register of Industrial Designs. The holder of the right to an industrial design may authorize the use of this design by means of a license agreement, where the license may be exclusive or non-exclusive.

Industrial designs may be internationally registered. By international registration, IDA recognizes, a registration effected by the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization according to the procedure established by the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Deposit of Industrial Designs of November 6, 1925, according to the Hague Act of 1960 or the Geneva Act of 1999 to the Hague Agreement.

A Community industrial design is a design registered with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) under the terms and according to the procedure established by Council Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 on Community designs.

Administrative penalties are enforced to persons infringing rights under the IDA.

Topology of Integrated Circuits;

The registration of topology of integrated circuits (referred in this section as “topology”), the rights arising out of such registration and the protection of these rights are covered by the Topology of Integrated Circuits Act. Protection is afforded to an original topology that is the result of its creators' own intellectual efforts and is not commonplace among the creators of topologies and manufacturers of integrated circuits at the time of its creation.

The State Register of Topologies is maintained by the Patent Office and contains data on all registered topologies and on all subsequent changes in relation thereto.

The right to a topology is acquired by registration in the Patent Office. The right to a topology is exclusive.

The right to a topology includes the right of the holder to exploit the topology, to dispose of it, and to prohibit third parties from exploiting it in the course of their commercial activities without his consent. The holder of the right to a topology may not prohibit the commercial exploitation of an integrated circuit or of a product incorporating such circuit in which the registered topology has been incorporated and which has been placed on the Bulgarian market by, or with the consent of, the holder of the right.

Further, the holder of the right in a topology may permit its exploitation by means of a license agreement.

The protection terminates ten years after the end of the calendar year during which it has become effective in accordance in accordance with the applicable legislation.

Claims under Topology of Integrated Circuits Act are within the jurisdiction of the Administrative Court of the City of Sofia.

For more information about doing business in Bulgaria, see the complete text of our Guide.