Circular No. 365: Libya - Important Development; Loss of Existing Trade Mark Rights!
In our Circular No. 357 dated October 2002, we reported a substantial increase in official fees for trade mark matters in Libya. It was then thought that this might portend the re-activation of the Trade Marks Office, which for many years had not processed any trade mark applications, renewals, etc. beyond receipt of the documents and issuance of receipts. After that announcement, there was a period of doubt as to what exactly was planned.
It has, however, now become clear that there has been a new development which fundamentally affects those trade mark rights which had been believed to exist in Libya.
A new Trade Marks Office has in fact been created. This opened in December 2002 but initially, only local applicants were permitted to file and that restriction has only just been lifted.
Most importantly, the Minister of Commerce issued a decision on 7 June 2003 to cancel all trade mark applications/registrations filed between 1981 and December 2002. Consequently, the proprietors of trade marks filed during this specific period will now have to file fresh applications in order to obtain protection in Libya. This decision, which will surely be seen as an outrageous denial of existing rights, was made despite strong protests from local practitioners and international bodies. In response, the Minister has justified the decision on the following grounds:
Applications filed between 1981 and December 2002 were submitted to the Companies Registrar, whereas according to the Trade Marks Law, they should have been filed with the Trade Marks Registrar (despite the fact that this position was vacant during the period in question). The Companies Registrar, it is stated, was not authorised to receive trade mark applications and this is the reason why they have not been processed.
Many applications were filed by agents who were not properly licensed.
The official files are not in good order and many documents including filing receipts and revenue receipts are missing.
The new Trade Marks Office does not have the capacity to examine the enormous number of pending applications already on file.
Accordingly, all trade mark applications/registrations which were filed between 1981 and 2002 are no longer considered to be valid. They will all have to be replaced by fresh applications if protection is still required. Furthermore, in the circumstances described above, local applicants have effectively had an eight-month priority period within which to file new applications. It would therefore be advisable to initiate any new filing programmes as soon as possible.
Advice on documentary requirements and anticipated costs are available from Spoor & Fisher Jersey.
Clients should inquire from their usual contact person or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, it should be noted that the Ministerial decision does not refer to applications/registrations filed prior to 1981 and it is thought that cases in this category will remain in force, provided that renewal applications have been filed at the proper times during the interim. A separate announcement is expected from the Trade Marks Office shortly and we shall report further once the position has been clarified.
Click here for Libya Filing Requirements.