The Birth of North Macedonia
On January 25, 2019, the Greek Parliament ratified the Prespes agreement between Macedonia and Greece, ending the nearly three-decade long dispute between the two countries over the name “Macedonia”.
According to the agreement, first signed on June 17, 2017, the official constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia will change to “Republic of North Macedonia”, while the country’s short name will be “North Macedonia”.
As a result and by virtue of the agreement, Greece lifted its veto on Macedonia’s bid to join NATO and the EU, resulting in an invitation to join the former and the start of accession talks with the latter. In order for the new name to take effect, the Greek Parliament must ratify Macedonia’s NATO Accession Protocol, which is expected to take place by the end of February 2019.
Besides changing the name of the Republic of Macedonia, the Prespes agreement also establishes that the name of the country’s nationality will be “Macedonian/citizen of the Republic of North Macedonia” and the official language “Macedonian language”. Among other matters, the agreement regulates the change of the country code and license plates and defines the terms “Macedonia” and “Macedonian” as referring to the state, its institutions and other public entities, as well as to commercial names, trademarks and brand names.
Therefore, once the new name takes effect, it will impact the area of intellectual property. Based on Article 1.3(h) of the Prespes agreement, Greece and Macedonia will establish a Bilateral Expert Group which will work, over the period of three years, on the issues related to commercial names, trademarks and brand names containing the term Macedonia or Macedonian. The Bilateral Expert Group will work in cooperation with the European Union, the United Nations and the International Organization for Standardization. The Greek and Macedonian governments will appoint their members to the Group during 2019.
According to the agreement, the use of the term “North Macedonia” in the area of intellectual property will start once Macedonia closes negotiations on Chapter 7 – Intellectual Property Law, as part of its EU accession talks. Although the Prespes agreement will not have an immediate impact on intellectual property rights, right owners and future applicants will soon have to take the name change into account when making their IP-related decisions.
By: Živka Kostovska-Stojkovska
For more information, please contact Živka Kostovska-Stojkovska at our Macedonia office.
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