On 16.12.21 was held a panel discussion entitled "Intellectual Property Rights (IP) in boosting to trade and investments" within the Conference "CEFTA Week 2021 - 15 years of trade", which took place in Skopje, MK from 13-16 December 2021. This panel was addressed by prof. Dr. Gjorgji Filipov, founder of the Agency "Berin"; Mladen Vukmir, MA, Head of the CEFTA IPR Project (Zagreb); Jasmina Suljović, Lawyer (Sarajevo); Ignacio de Medrano Caballero, Head of the Office for International Cooperation, European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), (Alicante); Dragana Ranitović, Director of IP, Ministry of Economic Development, (Podgorica) and Marija Božić, Institute of IP, (Belgrade). The discussion was moderated by Aurelia Iseanu from the Secretariat of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) (Brussels). The conference was attended by colleagues: Liljana Filipova, co-founder and European patent attorney of "Berin International GmbH", Vienna; DI Bogoljub Ilievski, head of the Patent Department in "Berin", vice president of the European Patent Institute; M.Sc. Marija of the Sector for Trademarks and Ivona Sekulovska, MA, Representative for IS and about fifty representatives from all CEFTA countries.
The first part of the panel discussed the importance of IPR in encouraging trade in CEFTA and how it can generate economic growth, attract investment and new areas of development. Aurelia Iseanu gave a brief introduction and then asked questions to each of the panelists. Common questions were: 1. Why do we need to take seriously the role of IPR in economic development, trade promotion and investment attraction? and 2. How can we ensure that common rules and minimum standards for the protection and enforcement of IP rights between CEFTA Parties serve the purpose without creating unnecessary costs and potential barriers to trade? How to deal with business concerns that rights acquired in one market do not apply to another CEFTA market?
The representative of MK, Dr. Filipov, was asked a special question: "Recently, the Investment Forum for the Six Chambers of the Western Balkans published a report indicating that IS is ranked among the non-tariff barriers, which are considered an obstacle to do business in the region. “Given that your company offers a range of IP services in the region and beyond, including the EU countries, what do you think is added value for the business if it protects its IP rights while ensuring that no additional barriers to trade are created?"
In the second part of the panel, the discussants initiated a series of questions where Dr. Filipov talked about the not so common, but very unpleasant, situations when some domestic offices for IS or EUIPO when assess whether to recognize a trademark application and register it, instead the provisions of the law, international conventions and agreements use as a criterion for decision the affiliation of the company, which seeks protection in the country before which the Office has been filed or which is in the EU or outside the EU. Filipov also referred to the disputes over geographical names, with EUIPO representative Medrano Caballero responding that such disputes exist between interested companies from the EU itself, which is not unusual, and EUIPO must make a decision if no compromise solution was found between the parties to the dispute.
The moderator, Ms. Iseanu, stressed that the purpose of the Discussion is to discuss the next steps to enhance cooperation on IP rights within CEFTA, possible recommendations, feasible solutions that could be implemented in CEFTA. On this topic, Filipov proposed to consider the possibility of creating a joint "Office for Trademarks and Industrial Designs" for all CEFTA members, following the example of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. This would eliminate the obstacles and barriers to free trade caused by protectionism in the IP, which, although not a major obstacle, still, according to polls, participates with a 15% share in the total non-tariff barriers.
Having in mind that besides the panel discussion, the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) held a technical workshop for the employees of the CIS offices of the CEFTA member countries, we evaluate CEFTA Week 2021 in North Macedonia as a successful event.