In the ever-evolving landscape of intellectual property, the Baltic states are at the forefront of transformative changes. From Estonia’s ambitious proposals to strengthen copyright laws and protect creators to Latvia’s battle against the surge in counterfeit goods, and the European Union’s groundbreaking move to extend geographical indication protection, the region is a hotbed of legal developments. Meanwhile, Lithuania grapples with a trade mark dispute, exemplifying the intricacies of protecting artistic identities in the modern era. Read more about the dynamic changes shaping the intellectual property scene across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in the first Sorainen intellectual property newsflash of 2024.
- Ministry of Justice is set to solve some of the bottlenecks in Estonian copyright law
- Top 10 pop-culture related intellectual property stories from 2023
- More and more Estonian artists are protecting their trade marks
- The volume of confiscated counterfeit goods in postal shipments in Latvia has tripled
- European Union advances intellectual property protection with geographical indications for craft and industrial products
- Changes in the 12th edition of the Nice classification
- “HIPERBOLĖ” and “HIPERBOLĖ in SYMPHONY”: music band members object to a new trade mark using their band name
Ministry of Justice is set to solve some of the bottlenecks in Estonian copyright law
The Minister of Justice sent to interest groups for approval a proposal to develop a draft law, the purpose of which is to improve the use of copyright law in practice and to ensure greater legal certainty for rights holders.
One of the proposals is to grant the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority the authority to issue orders to internet service providers to block access in Estonia to websites that violate copyright.
The proposal points out that in Estonia, various content providers offer easily accessible services allowing users to consume music, films, TV series and other content for free, without observing the proper rights. The Ministry of Justice refers to a study indicating a higher level of visits to piracy-focused platforms in Estonia, compared to other European countries.
Authors, performers, and producers suffer financial losses due to unauthorised access to content, and the current legal measures are deemed to be too time-consuming. The ministry suggests solutions such as DNS (domain name system) blocking and IP-based blocking to prevent access to copyright-infringing content within Estonia, regardless of the server’s location. Read more here.
Top 10 pop-culture related intellectual property stories from 2023
Sorainen lawyer Helery Maidlas has written about pop culture events that shook social media through the lens of intellectual property rights. Among the top 10 can be found events such as Twitter’s name change, the Beatles’ new song, the Barbie movie, and the TV series The Last of Us.
Helery placed at the top of the list the most controversial intellectual property moment of 2023: the copyright issues related to local influencer Brigitte Susanne Hunt’s book and the photos used in it. “Suddenly, people were discussing whether ideas are protected by copyright (they are not) and whether an individual needs to ask the photographer for permission to use a photo, even if it is of themselves (yes),” wrote the lawyer.
In second place, Helery put the film Barbie. Director Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film has made history in several categories, including being Warner Bros.’ highest-grossing film of all time. It has been an excellent year for Mattel, the owner of the Barbie brand. At times, it has even felt like everything in the world is pink and adorned with the Barbie logo. Mattel predicts that the revenue associated with the film in 2023 will be approximately USD 125 million, with a profit margin of over 60% on their sales transactions. The environmental impact of producing Barbie-themed merchandise is a separate question, but Mattel has undeniably created a brand with a lasting global following.
Read more here.
More and more Estonian artists are protecting their trade marks
At the beginning of the year, it seemed that the interest of Estonian creatives in the protection of their intellectual property was lukewarm. However, 2023 actually brought a lot of musicians and bands registering their names as trade marks at the Patent Office. The trade mark disputes that have fueled public passions recently may have played a part in this.
The start of the war in Ukraine, skyrocketing energy prices, rapid inflation and rising interest rates worldwide shook the world of intellectual property in 2022 and led to a marked decline in trade mark applications. Although the economic recession is continuing and entrepreneurs are operating in a more and more frugal way, the number of trade mark applications in Estonia in 2023 has started to gradually climb upwards.
Whatever is behind the increase in trade mark applications seems to have fired up our creatives too, with eight trade mark applications filed this year by musicians and bands, such as Metsatöll and TOMMY CASH. Normally, the Patent Office receives only one or two applications from creatives during the year, if that. Overall, there were 1,081 Estonian national trade mark applications in 2022 and 1,164 in 2023. Read more about the applications filed by creatives here and about the Patent Office’s statistics from here.
The volume of confiscated counterfeit goods in postal shipments in Latvia has tripled
According to the Patent Office, in the first ten months of last year, the number of counterfeit goods detected in shipments from private individuals in Latvia nearly tripled, indicating that some residents are still prepared to order goods of unknown origin and potentially hazardous items.
The data compiled by the Patent Office reveals that in 2022, 772 items in 199 postal shipments were identified and destroyed. In 2023, 2,396 counterfeit goods were discovered in 192 shipments, with clothing and sports shoes being the most common counterfeits found in packages set to private individuals. The most commonly counterfeited brands include Nike, Adidas, The North Face and Louis Vuitton.
The Patent Office is continuing its campaign “Be Original – Choose Original!” to educate youth and the general public about the risks and consequences of counterfeit consumption.
Read more here.
European Union advances intellectual property protection with geographical indications for craft and industrial products
On 16 November 2023, a landmark regulation entered into force which extends geographical indication protection to craft and industrial products: Regulation (EU) 2023/2411 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 October 2023 on the Protection of Geographical Indications for Craft and Industrial Products (CIGIR).
This regulation broadens the existing system, previously limited to agricultural goods, so that it now includes craft and industrial products like natural stones, textiles, jewellery, porcelain and woodworking products. The CIGIR regulation aims to empower producers, particularly small and micro-businesses, by offering EU-wide protection for geographically linked craft and industrial products.
It promotes fair competition, prevents misuse, and supports regional development. Producers can apply for protection through a two-phase application process managed by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The EUIPO’s expanded responsibilities include overseeing the registration process and integrating the new intellectual property rights into its existing framework for managing EU trade marks and registered Community designs.
The CIGIR will become fully applicable on 1 December 2025.
Changes in the 12th edition of the Nice classification
The 2024 version of the 12th edition of the Nice Classification contains several new goods and services compared to the previous version from 2023. The new version contains a range of new goods and services related to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and goods and services that are provided in a virtual environment. NFTs are blockchain-based and are used as unique digital certificates to record some form of interest in an item, such as ownership of a digital artwork or collectable. The changes concern the 9th, 25th, 35th, 36th, 38th, 41st and 42nd Nice classes.
The official text of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Nice Classification in English is available on the WIPO website.
“HIPERBOLĖ” and “HIPERBOLĖ in SYMPHONY”: music band members object to a new trade mark using their band name
The State Patent Bureau of the Republic of Lithuania has examined the opposition brought by the members of the music group Hiperbolė, the proprietors of trade marks “HIPERBOLĖ”.
The opposition was lodged against an application for registration of the trade mark “HIPERBOLĖ in SYMPHONY” by UAB Medusa concert on the grounds that, in the opinion of the band members, the opposed mark is confusingly similar to their previously registered trade marks.
The State Patent Bureau agreed with the position of the band members. It held that in the contested mark “HIPERBOLĖ in SYMPHONY”, the first word, “HIPERBOLĖ”, is the main and dominant element of the mark, while the other words (“in SYMPHONY”) are merely supplementary.
The State Patent Bureau concluded that the Medusa Concert trade mark is similar to the previously registered trade marks that include the dominant and distinctive element of the word “HIPERBOLĖ”. There are similarities in both the visual and phonetic aspects. Additionally, the meaning of the trade marks is linked to the same word – “HIPERBOLĖ” – making them semantically similar.
The State Patent Bureau found the contested mark confusingly similar to previously registered trade marks, rendering the opposition well-founded.
The State Patent Bureau’s decision can still be appealed to the Vilnius Regional Court.
Check out the October edition of intellectual property highlights.
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