Zunic Law Firm Takes Victory in the Unfair Competition Dispute

At the beginning of May, the Commercial Appellate Court upheld the first-instance verdict and ruled in favor of our client Petroprocess in a court dispute that was conducted due to unfair competition due to the similarity of the business name.

The proceeding initiated at the beginning of 2018, finally got its successful epilogue, since the court determined that the use of identical names of business entities, led to confusion on the market, due to which the defendant was prohibited from using part of the name in the form of the word “Petroprocess” in its business name.

The court ruling rendered in this dispute is particularly important both from the aspect of intellectual property protection and from the aspect of unfair competition.

Specifically, the trade name is considered a part of industrial property in accordance with Article 8 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which we covered in a separate blog post. However, the Serbian law and case law completely ignore this aspect of the business name, which is evident both from the substantive regulations governing this issue and from the prescribed court jurisdiction. As disputes regarding the protection of business names are conducted before the courts competent in accordance with general regulations, and not before the competent Commercial Court in Belgrade (i.e., the High Court in Belgrade) which resolves disputes related to intellectual property protection, it is clear that there is still insufficient understanding and legal protection of this aspect of the business name.

On the other hand, unfair competition is ubiquitous in the market, but there is still a lack of case law on this matter. Precisely this aspect reiterates the significance of the said judgment that recognizes the use of similar business names as unfair competition, providing legal protection to business entities in the market and enabling fair market competition.

Finally, the proceeding confirmed that ideas, as well as words, cannot be subject to IP rights, a rule that has long been established in the practice of EU member states.

Tijana Žunić Marić, Attorney at Law and Partner at Zunic Law Firm, who led the team representing Petroprocess briefly commented:

“It was such an honor to represent Petroprocess in this proceeding. In a complete absence of case law, and by relying on the foreign case law, in conditions where the court is not specialized for trials regarding intellectual property disputes, the proceeding itself was an immense challenge.

We are proud to have participated in the creation of new case law, and to have paved the way to the protection of other businesses on the market, which are facing the problems of unfair competition as well.”

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