As if it had ever been out of the spotlight in recent times, Iraq is once again in the international news: for the first time since the commencement of the war against ISIS, the United States has started to withdraw troops from the country.

I have paused for a moment over this piece of news, which could have gone almost unnoticed in the midst of extensive coverage of the unsettled political situation and the heavy snowfalls in Spain, to reflect on the scope and unimaginable consequences of a crisis which, on its various fronts, has lasted for decades.

I can clearly recall the impact that the news of the bombing of Iraq by the United States, towards the end of the nineties, had on me when I was practically still a girl. At that time I was not able to comprehend the reasons for what was happening or to grasp the implications. Nor, I fear, would I be able to do so now, twenty years later. I even find it hard to envisage the conditions in which our profession may be practiced in such a scenario. Conflicts affect all aspects of life and, although this may seem of little significance within the broader context, therefore extend also to intellectual property, to trademarks, to the governmental institutions and agencies which administer them, to local officers and practitioners, to right holders and interested third parties, even to communications, postal services and technology, and to physical files which may disappear or be destroyed.

I can well appreciate that in this scenario priorities may be hard to establish and it is for this reason that I am starting to see a justification for the decision, of which we have recently learned, taken by the Iraqi Trademark Office to “wipe the slate clean”. Thus, out of what I take to be a desire to make a fresh start after the disaster, the Office has implemented a new procedure for the registration of trademarks in which the order of some of the principal steps has been reversed. Now, all applications must, at the outset, successfully undergo prior examination. Only then will they be deemed to have been officially filed. Subsequently, they will be published and registered.

This, in itself, would not have been of such relevance to our profession had it not been accompanied by a further decision to suspend the prosecution of those trademark applications previously filed under the former law and practice. It appears that the owners of those applications will have no option but to re-file, while at least retaining their original priority during the registration proceeding of the new application.

It seems rather unlikely that the suspended applications will be reactivated, particularly in view of the fact that on 29 January 2018 – according to our sources – the Iraqi Trademark Office started sending out notifications to their owners inviting them to re-file and warning them that their rights could otherwise be lost.

While this news should be viewed with a certain degree of reservation, given that the information emerging is not uniform and other opinions have also been expressed, it would appear advisable in the circumstances for trademark owners to review their main interests in Iraq and, for safety’s sake, to re-file in cases where a previous application for a mark of fundamental importance may be affected by the suspension process.

Author: Cristina Arroyo

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