The new Finnish Trademarks Act entered into force on 1 May 2019. At the same time, the overall reform implemented the content of the EU Trade Marks Directive and the Singapore Agreement into Finnish national law. Below are reviewed several key changes to the previous legislation.
From a business perspective, significant changes following by the new Act are directed at the classification of registered trademarks, including class headings, as well as what lists of goods and services are considered to cover. Hereafter, trademarks will be categorized uniformly in accordance with the EU classification practices, and registered lists will only be considered to cover goods and services in accordance with their wording. In the old registrations, there have been vague descriptions of the scope of coverage, which now must be specified pursuant to the new Act. Holders of registrations will be given the opportunity to particularize their lists, and the clarification shall at latest be made in connection with the next renewal of the trademark registration. After this deadline, all lists will be interpreted according to the new rules.
In addition, an essential change to the previous legislation is that the new Act removes the requirement, that a trademark must be a distinctive sign which can be represented graphically. From this point forward, any mark capable of distinguishing the proprietors goods or services within business activities from the goods or services of another, and which is capable of being represented in the trademark register in such a way that the authorities and the public is able to determine the clear and precise subject of the protection granted to the trademark proprietor, can be registered as a trademark. This means e.g. that multimedia content, such as moving images or audio files, can be registered as trademarks in the future.
The reform also introduces changes to the procedure for administrative invalidation and revocation regarding trademarks and trade names. From now on, parties may besides the Market Court, file administrative invalidation or revocation actions to the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, giving the business field an alternative to an efficient and rapid procedure.
Alongside with the reform, a lack in the Finnish criminal law is also rectified. The new Act criminalizes infringements of EU trademarks and community designs, giving proprietors better prerequisites for legal protection.
The changes brought by the reform are welcome. The new Act clarifies and modernizes the outdated and inconsistent Finnish Trademarks Act of 1964 to meet today’s needs. In order to avoid unfortunate surprises, trademark proprietors should check the coverage of their registrations and take the necessary measures.
Our Trainee Jere Lehtimäki took part in writing of this commentary.