The Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilization (CARDS) program was created by the European Commission to support economic development of the Western Balkans countries through effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.
The participants in the program are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. The European Patent Office (EPO) is responsible for implementing the program in cooperation with the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM).
The particular objective of the program is to harmonize IP laws of the five Western Balkan participants and bring them in line with the requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO). To accomplish this objective, a series of seminars and workshops relating to legal harmonization, capacity building of IP institutions, IP enforcement and IP awareness have begun. The first CARDS seminar was organized in October 2003 in Belgrade, which is the project center. Since then, seminars, workshops, colloquiums and symposiums have taken place in all member countries and will continue until the program ends in 2006. A complete list of all past and upcoming seminars can be found on the CARDS website.
In addition to the above activities, the five member states meet twice per year at regional Coordination Meetings to prepare work plans outlining actions to be implemented over a one-year period. The last meeting took place in February 2004 in Belgrade, and was attended by all member states as well as the EPO and OHIM representatives. At that time, the EPO representatives also met with the government officials in Belgrade to discuss the Co-operation and Extension Agreement between Serbia and Montenegro and the European Patent Office. The Agreement was ratified on June 15, 2004 by the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro and, according to the Serbian and Montenegrin PTO, it is expected to be in force in November 2004.
The CARDS program is part of the larger Stabilization and Association process, which outlined the legal structure for economic and political relationships between the EU and each of the CARDS countries. In the long term, and through programs like CARDS, the Stabilization and Association process offers these countries the prospect of full integration into EU structures.