Creativity has always formed an integral part of the Greek culture and tradition. One need only to consider the events that have taken place in Greek historical monuments and cultural heritage sites (such as the recent Dior fashion show held at the iconic Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaro) in June 2021) to understand the great influence that Greek culture has on the fashion industry at a global level.
The turnover of the Greek fashion industry was EUR 3.2 billion in 2020 (significantly lower than the average EUR 4 billion – due to the global Covid 19 pandemic), with textile and clothing representing EUR 2.6 billion, footwear EUR 685 million and sportswear EUR 658 million.
Alongside iconic domestic brands such as Zeus & Dione, Vassilis Zoulias, Ancient Greek Sandals, Mary Katrantzou, Sophia Kokosalaki, Dimitris Dassios, Yiorgos Eleftheriades and Celia Kritharioti, there is a considerable number of emerging Greek designers dedicated to sustainable, ethical fashion, using environmentally and socially friendly manufacturing techniques and materials.
1 . What are the main intellectual property legal tools available to protect fashion products?
1.1. Trademarks and non-traditional trademarks
Understanding the key role of trademarks as invaluable assets in a highly competitive global market is critical for fashion brands which are seeking to add value to their products, drive consumer behaviour and protect their investment and goodwill.
Trademarks in Greece are subject to the provisions of Law 4679/2020, which implements Directive (EU) 2015/2436 and harmonizes the national trademark system with Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 on the EU trademark.
The registration process follows European standards. Rights holders can submit either a hard copy or electronic application form before the General Secretariat of Commerce and Consumer Protection, at the Ministry of Development and Investments. By virtue of Law 4796/2021 and further to a Joint Ministerial Decision to be issued in the near future, the Hellenic Industrial Property Organization (supervised by the Ministry of Development and Investments) will be taking over as the competent agency for trademarks.
For a sign to be registered as a trademark, it must fulfil the requirements of the Law’s article 2, which states “a national trade mark may consist of any signs, in particular words, including personal names, or designs, letters, numerals, colours, the shape of goods or of the packaging of goods, or sounds, provided that such signs are capable of:
- distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings; and
- being represented on the Register, in a manner which enables the competent authorities and the public to determine the clear and precise subject matter of the protection afforded to its proprietor”.
Registration fees range from 100-120€ for the first class of goods/services and 20€ for each additional class applied for. The duration of the registration is 10 years, renewable perpetually, provided that the rights holder pays the respective renewal fees and uses the trademark in the course of trade.
Non-traditional trademarks. Among its key amendments, the new trademark Law 4679/2020 – in line with EU legislation – abolished the graphic representation requirement from the definition of a trademark.
The Law makes explicit reference to the registrability of non-traditional signs, such as: 3D shapes, position marks, motion trademarks, audio-visual and hologram trademarks. This expanded definition potentially “opens the floodgates” for trademark registrations not permitted under the previous legal regime. This is particularly important in the fashion industry where non-traditional trademarks, such as colours, often serve ornamental and aesthetic purposes, vital for healthy competition and a valuable tool to the designer’s palette.
Currently in Greece there are very few non-traditional trademarks on the Registry but, further to the new trademark law and the practices adopted in other jurisdictions, this is expected to change.
The 'Greek Mark' certification. The ‘Greek Mark’ established by the General Secretariat of Commerce and Consumer Protection to certify the goods and services produced in Greece, is awarded according to the Award Regulations applicable to each category of goods and services and requires, inter alia, that such goods are produced in Greece and that a percentage of the production costs are allocated in Greece. Although fashion items can fall under the scope of the certification, currently the products awarded with the Greek Mark are primarily food and drinks (such as milk, feta cheese, alcoholic beverages, olive oil etc.). The potential issuance of a Ministerial Decision that introduces an Award Regulation for fashion products is currently under discussion.
1.2. Design as an alternative or addition to TM registration
Fashion businesses can additionally rely on design protection to safeguard their rights on their creations (‘design’ meaning the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation). In Greece designs are regulated by various legislative acts in line with the European legal framework, including Law 2417/1996, Presidential Decrees 259/1997 and 161/2002, and Ministerial Decision nr. 69483/ΔΕΚΝΤ61/4.7.2019/ΦΕΚ Β’ 2810.
For a design to be protected, it must:
- be novel: no identical design has been made available to the public; and
- have individual character: the overall impression it produces on the informed user differs from the overall impression produced on such a user by any design which has been made available to the public.
Applications to register a design are submitted electronically, before the Hellenic Industrial Property Organization (OBI). The duration of protection is 5 years, renewable up to a maximum of 25 years.
The applicant may submit up to 50 designs in a single application and the registration cost depends on the number of designs submitted - an indicative cost for a single registration in 2021 is approximately 130-160€.
When a design has been created by an employee in a fashion business, the following scenarios would be used to establish design rights:
- The employee has created the design for the purposes and within the scope of the employment relation: in this case the design belongs to the employer.
- The design has been created independently, outside the scope of the employment relation: in this case the rights are of the creator/employee.
- The design has been created with the use of company materials and/or resources: in this case the rights are allocated 40% to the employer and 60% to the employee.
In Greece, in the five years between 01 January 2016 and 31 December 2020, 12 applications have been submitted for jewellery (3 filings from companies and 9 from individuals) and 9 applications for clothing (3 filings from companies and 6 from individuals). These numbers demonstrate that businesses and designers are starting to consider the benefits of design protection as an essential tool against copying and slavish imitations, however, given the seasonality and fashion’s fast pace together with a potentially limited budget, Greek designers appear reluctant to proceed with registration.
1.3. Copyright as an alternative or addition to TM registration
In Greece the only requirement for obtaining copyright protection for a work is its originality. Any original work, expressed in any form, can be protected under copyright. Greek Copyright Law 2121/1993 gives an indicative list for possible objects of copyright protection, in which works of fine art, including drawings, works of applied art and three-dimensional works are included.
Copyright protection does not extend to ideas (e.g. business ideas), procedures, methods of operation and expressions of the folk tradition.
Based on both national (art. 6 par. 2 of Law 2121/1993 on Copyright, Related Rights and Cultural Matters) and international law (art. 5 par. 2 International Berne Convention), obtaining copyright protection is not subject to any formality. Therefore, no formal procedure or the collaboration of any governmental or non-governmental service is required for the recognition of creator’s rights on a work, as is the case for other intangible assets (e.g. trademarks).
Nevertheless, ‘registering’ a work at a public register of copyright-protected works, where available, may, in practice, serve administrative and evidential purposes.
The following are the most commonly used practices to ensure an element of proof of paternity and to secure one’s rights:
- Deposit the work to a notary. This practice provides a rebuttable presumption confirming the date, which can be evaluated by a court in the event of legal proceedings on the infringement of the rights on that work.
- Use an online timestamping service (www.timestamp.gr), whereby the work, irrespective of its type, obtains a certain date concerning its existence. The online timestamping service, in essence, uniquely identifies a work (in a digital or digitized form) and records the specific date and time at which the work had been accordingly submitted.
- Postage of a registered letter whose sender and recipient is the creator (or the recipient can be a third person). Upon receipt of the envelope which contains the work (or a picture of it or a storage device containing, for example, drawings of clothes), the author stores it in a safe place and keeps it sealed, to use it in case of a court dispute. In that case, the envelope will be unsealed by a judge who will confirm its content.
Where a work of fashion is created by an employee of a fashion brand in the execution of an employment contract, the initial holder of the economic and moral rights in the work shall be the creator of the work. Unless provided otherwise by contract, only such economic rights, as are necessary for the fulfilment of the purpose of the contract, shall be transferred exclusively to the employer.
As the above demonstrates, a multiplicity of protective tools exist in the fashion industry, and brands and fashion designs can be protected by different IPRs, depending on the elements for which protection is sought (e.g. the product’s appearance can be protected by copyright and/or industrial design, while the brand can be protected as a trademark).
1.4. Any other pertinent IP rights?
Patents. Patents relate to the functional and technical characteristics of the products procedures and uses. Patent law in Greece follows the European Patent Convention (EPC). The Hellenic Industrial Property Organisation (OBI) is the only legally qualified institution for the protection of inventions and industrial designs. The patent must be new, include an inventive step, and be suitable for industrial application and not contrary to public order and morality.
Patents and utility model certificates are particularly interesting for the fashion industry. In order for a fashion design to be patentable it must be of patentable subject matter, in other words, the kind of subject-matter eligible for patent protection. According to Law 1733/1987 in force, aesthetic creations are not considered inventions within the meaning of the law applicable to patents.
Patent protection is granted for 20 years to the proprietor of an invention if it is considered “new” with inventive activity and susceptible to industrial application. An invention is considered new if it does not belong to the art and involves inventive activity - that is, if, in the judgment of an expert, it does not arise in any obvious way from the existing state of the art. Susceptible to industrial application is if it can be produced and used in any means of productive activity.
The utility model certificate offers a protection valid for 7 years, granted to the beneficiary for 3D designs with a defined shape and form, which solve a technical problem and have the characteristics of being both ‘new’ and industrially applicable.
Geographical indications (GIs) establish IPRs for products whose qualities or reputations are specifically linked to the area of their production. GIs comprise of:
- PDO: Protected Designation of Origin (food and wine);
- PGI: Protected Geographical Indication (food and wine); and
- GI: Geographical Indication (spirit drinks and aromatised wines).
In the Greek legal system GIs are protected according to the provisions of unfair competition, on the basis of the framework set by the EU legislation.
1.5. Summary of additional IPRs
The advantages of copyright protection include the lack of formalities, the longer duration of protection (the creator’s life and 70 years from his death) and the protection of the work regardless of its aesthetic or artistic value. Furthermore, a protected work enjoys international protection, wherever copyright is acknowledged by national legislation, whereas the same work enjoys only national protection as a design, patent or trademark, unless EU or international protection is granted.
Trademark protection, on the other hand, may be more formalistic and challenging to acquire, however due to the trademark registries, rights holders are not required, prima facie, to prove the existence of their rights, which can be perpetually renewed, subject to specific conditions.
Patent protection may provide an important source of revenue for a business if the rights holder licenses the patent or if they decide to commercially exploit the invention themselves. On the other hand, the process can be time-consuming and costly and requires making certain technical information about one’s invention publicly available (e.g. running shoes that increase running speed).
2 . Beyond intellectual property: what contractual arrangements are useful in manufacturing, distributing and advertising fashion products?
2.1. Manufacturing fashion products
License agreements and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). In the fashion industry, license agreements are integral for businesses to expand their brand in various territories and market segments. The licensor grants the licensee with a license to use, under specific conditions, an IPR (trademark, design, copyright etc.), for a specified period, without transferring ownership on such rights. Given that IPRs are at the heart of such agreements, the terms therein must ensure that they are protected and that the licensor retains control over them.
A license agreement must specify, inter alia:
- license term and termination;
- exclusivity/non-exclusivity and the rights retained by the licensor;
- royalties (flat fee, percentage or a combination thereof);
- the goods/services, in relation to which the license is granted;
- specifications on product quality and standards; and
- obligations regarding the use of the IPRs licensed.
Brands are also strongly advised to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), protecting their highly valued confidential information associated with the license. An NDA is signed at a pre-contractual stage to ensure that any information exchanged upon negotiations shall remain confidential, even if the parties decide not to enter into an agreement. The protection is extended throughout the whole contractual relation (and beyond its termination) and it is essential to include relevant clauses in the license agreements, additionally to the NDA already signed.
Although not subject to specific legislation, NDAs are recognized by Greek courts as valid contracts or contract clauses (indicatively Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) decisions 1219/2017, 1141/2018, based on the general principle of freedom of contract under Civil Law (art. 287 and 361 of the Greek Civil Code in combination with art. 5, par. 1 of the Greek Constitution).
Subcontract agreements / in-house manufacturing. Subcontract agreements (regulated under the Greek Civil Code (articles 681-702)), whereby the contractor undertakes to carry out work on behalf of the client, are integral to the production cycle. Among the key terms in such agreements are: the definition of deliverables, instructions, technical specifications and quality standards, the process for the acceptance of the work, the definition of defects, the party responsible for supplying raw materials, models and prototypes, the use of IPRs by the contractor, the timeframe of delivery and applicable penalties in case of delay.
2.2. Distributing fashion products
Agency agreement. Agency agreements are governed by Presidential Decree (PD) 219/1991. This framework agreement designates the parties’ general contractual obligations and commercial cooperation. The agent, acting on behalf and at the name of the principal, provides opportunities and promotes the conclusion of contracts, for a commission based on the actual sales, as a direct result of the agent’s actions. The agent acts independently, pursuant to the principal’s guidelines, however without the specific obligations that bind distributors. Agency agreements may include an exclusivity clause, pursuant to which the principal appoints the agent exclusively in a specified territory. According to article 9 PD 219/1991, when the agency agreement is terminated, the agent is entitled (subject to specific conditions) to an indemnity, which shall not exceed the commercial agent's average annual remuneration over the preceding five years.
Selective distribution online in high-end fashion and trademark protection. In distribution agreements (a legal “instrument” widely used for the business operations in the Greek fashion industry), the distributor assumes the commercial risks, purchasing and reselling the products in its own name. Such agreements are not subject to a specific legal framework and the relevant provisions of the Greek Civil Code (particularly articles 724-725) shall apply mutatis mutandis (accordingly with any necessary adjustments). The distributor’s main obligations include compliance with the supplier’s guidelines on the appearance and quality of the goods, the protection of the supplier’s reputation and commercial interests, appropriate organization and infrastructure, product stock and potential upper/lower limits to the sale price of the products.
The agreement can be subject to territorial constraints and may include an exclusivity clause which, in the context of distribution, is twofold: the supplier is prohibited from selling the specific products to other distributors in the designated territory and, accordingly, the distributor shall refrain from directly selling competitive goods in the same area. For the fashion brand to ensure protection of its IPRs and safeguard its commercial image and reputation, the agreement must include water-tight provisions on the channels of sale, packaging, the use of the fashion brand’s trademarks and advertising.
Selective distribution is particularly important for high-end fashion and luxury products, as it intends to ensure the authenticity of the goods, appropriate advertising and promotion campaigns, product availability, the salespersons’ experience, the provision of warranties, etc. In selective distribution networks there is no territorial exclusivity per se – rather a territory in which the network operates – and distributors are prohibited from selling the designated products to unauthorized resellers. Such networks are considered ‘closed’, as their purpose is not to allow products to be sold to third-party merchants and a supplier retains control over the network, specifying the criteria for becoming a selective distributor. Selective distribution is important in the context of e-commerce, where the risk of products being sold outside the authorized network is even higher.
Although not provided under PD 219/1991 (which regulates the agency agreement), Greek Courts have been applying the ‘clientele indemnity’ accordingly to distribution agreements, to safeguard the distributor’s rights, upon termination of the agreement.
Co-branding and co-marketing. Co-branding agreements aim to expand the participating brands’ impact in the market by ‘joining forces’ with other brands. Co-branding enhances customer loyalty and satisfaction, reduces advertising costs, or allows brands to refresh their profile and enter new markets.
Depending on the type and characteristics of a co-branding agreement (short-term or long-term alliance, single or multiple products marketed by the collaborating brands, type of brand association, etc.), the businesses must put great emphasis on inter alia: the protection of both brands’ commercial image and reputation, the use and protection of the parties’ IPRs, allocation of property rights when the co-branding relates to a product marketed by both businesses under a new brand name, advertising and marketing strategy, allocation of profits, and so on.
2.3. Advertising fashion products
Employing fashion models. Before hiring a model, it is important to clarify whether they work for an agency (with which the contract will be signed) or as freelancers. It is advisable to include permitted and non-permitted uses, legal rights regarding copyright issues, image rights and rights regarding identifiable persons (in case such exists) on the pictures. If the photo-shooting takes place in a public area, eventual rights of the architect of the buildings that appear on the picture or of any work protected under copyright law, as well as Greek Law No. 3028/2002 on the Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, should be considered. It is worth noting that, according to the Athens Court of Appeal decision 4710/2009, if in an advertised ‘spot’ (advertisement as an audiovisual work) there is a plot, speech (original), or music, then there exists a 'work', the performance of which is protectable. In such a case related rights of models are acknowledged. On the contrary, if they merely make statements of an informative nature, there is no work and therefore not protectable under copyright performance.
Social media, influencers and brand ambassadors/celebrities. The value of influencer marketing is increasing exponentially and social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok, are extensively used by fashion brands to promote their products and maximize their impact. The speed in which content is uploaded online often underestimates the need for structure and legal certainty in the agreements with influencers and advertising laws may be overlooked. Fashion brands must be very thorough when signing an agreement with an influencer and ensure that they cover the influencer’s responsibilities as the brand’s representative, the use and protection of IPRs, compensation, the number and type of posts and content they must upload during a designated period, any restrictions regarding the influencer’s conduct to avoid any disparaging associations with the brand, guidelines regarding the text accompanying a social media post and the necessary wording to indicate the promotional nature of a post, all in accordance with applicable regulations.
In Greece there is no specific legislation for influencer marketing, therefore the general provisions on advertising (as described below under section “The Advertising Standard Authorities and advertising practice”) shall apply.
The Advertising Standard Authorities and advertising practice. Advertising in Greece is subject to, inter alia, Law 2251/1994 on Consumer Protection (article 9), in line with the provisions of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive 2005/29/EC and Directive 2006/114/EC concerning misleading and comparative advertising. In addition, according to article 5 of the PD 131/2003 (implementing the E-commerce Directive), any commercial communication must be clearly identified as such.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Hellas is a member of IAB Europe and acts as a sectoral representative for over 90 members in the digital and interactive marketing business. In line with the European regulations and (where necessary) in collaboration with IAB Europe and other agencies, IAB Hellas issues guidelines, codes of conduct and self-regulations, to ensure compliance with the applicable legal framework on advertising.
The Communication Control Council (TEU) is the body that controls the advertisements and ensures that the rules of ethics of the Hellenic Advertising - Communication Code (HACC) are observed. It is an independent, non-profit civil company, subject to Law 2863/2000, created in 2003 in the context of the advertising market’s self-regulation by advertisers, advertising companies, and the media. The TEU’s procedures meet the criteria of transparency, reliability and consistency, in accordance with European terms of good practice. The TEU’s objective is both the repressive and the voluntary control of the content of all forms of commercial communication, in order to determine in a consultative, preventive or repressive manner, compliance with the provisions of the HACC.
The HACC’s content and structure is based on the Consolidated ICC Code of Advertising and Marketing Communication Practice, corresponding to the global Code of Conduct. In Greece it is subject to Law 2863/2000 and applies to all advertisements for any product and service, as well as to all forms of commercial and social communication. It defines the rules of professional ethics and ethical behaviour, which must be observed (for more see www.see.gr).
3 . What regulations govern online marketing and how are the rules enforced?
Online marketing and e-commerce activities are subject primarily to:
- Law 2251/1994 on consumer protection, as amended and currently in force, implementing Directive 2011/83/EU of 25 October 2011 on consumer rights (Consumer Rights Directive).
- Presidential Decree 131/2003, implementing Directive 2000/31/EC, on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce).
- Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (GDPR).
- Law 4624/2019, implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and incorporating Directive (EU) 2016/680 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data by competent authorities for the purposes of the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences or the execution of criminal penalties, and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA (Greek Data Protection Law).
- Proposal for a Digital Services Act (DSA) (pending).
- Proposal for a Digital Markets Act (DMA) (pending).
The Digital Services Act (DSA) will build on the rules of the e-Commerce Directive and addresses the particular issues emerging around online intermediaries. Since EU Member States have different regulations and levels of protection for European citizens, these differences potentially create barriers for smaller companies looking to expand and scale up across the EU. The DSA sets horizontal rules covering all services and types of illegal content, including goods or services. It does not replace or amend, but it complements sector-specific legislation such as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, the Consumer Protection Acquis and specifically with regard to Directive 2019/2161 amending Directive 93/13/EEC and Directives 98/6/EC, 2005/29/EC and 2011/83/EU which establish specific rules to increase transparency as to certain features offered by certain information society services.
Once adopted, the DSA will:
- ensure a better environment for innovation, growth and competitiveness;
- facilitate the scaling up of smaller platforms, SMEs and start-ups; and
- equally protect all users in the EU, as regards their safety from illegal goods, content or services, and their fundamental rights.
The DMA introduces rules for platforms acting as “gatekeepers” in the digital sector, i.e. platforms that have a significant impact on the internal market, serve as an important gateway for business users to reach their customers, and enjoy, or will foreseeably enjoy, an entrenched and durable market position.
Common rules across the Single market will foster innovation, growth and competitiveness, and facilitate the scaling up of smaller platforms, small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups who will have a single, clear framework at the EU level.
3.1. Consumer protection regulations
Articles 3 and 4 of Law 2251/1994 (in line with the Consumer Rights Directive), govern distance and off-premises contracts between a trader and a consumer, to achieve a high level of consumer protection, while ensuring the market’s proper functioning. A trader is defined as any natural person or any legal person, irrespective of whether privately or publicly owned, who is acting, including through any other person acting in his name or on his behalf, for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession and a consumer is defined as any natural person who is acting for purposes which are outside his trade, business, craft or profession.
Among the information that traders are required to provide through the website’s Terms and Conditions (TC), prior to the conclusion of the contract, are the following:
- the main characteristics of the goods/services;
- the trader’s identity;
- the total price of the goods/services (including taxes and delivery charges);
- where a right of withdrawal exists, the conditions, time limit and procedures for exercising that right, the model withdrawal form and, where applicable, that the consumer bears the cost of returning the goods; and
- where withdrawal is not provided, information that the consumer will not benefit from a right of withdrawal.
More specifically, the consumer has a period of 14 days from the day on which the consumer acquires physical possession of the goods to withdraw from a distance contract, without giving any reason, and without incurring any costs other than the direct cost of returning the goods. After communicating his/her decision to withdraw, the consumer has another 14 days to deliver the goods back to the trader.
Furthermore, the Law provides (in article 3ib) for specific exceptions from the right of withdrawal, including the supply of goods made to the consumer’s specifications or clearly personalised. In practice, when a product is custom made (e.g. a dress with specific measurements, clothing with the consumer’s initials, customized footwear, etc.), the trader may refuse withdrawal, since the product – after its return – shall be of no use to the fashion brand, as it will not be able to resell it to another consumer.
The exemptions must be clearly stated in the website’s TCs, otherwise the company cannot refuse the consumer’s withdrawal from the sale. Interestingly, several e-businesses in Greece have decided, as part of their customer care policies, to grant consumers the right of withdrawal, even if they are entitled to an exemption, to enhance customer loyalty.
Withdrawals are a ‘thorny’ issue for fashion businesses in Greece with a high volume of returns which, depending on the size, organization and structure of each business, may prove extremely challenging to handle.
Privacy & Data Protection. Collection and processing of data regarding consumers’ purchases, preferences and browsing activity is an essential tool for fashion businesses wishing to target and attract consumers, optimize their business processes and website operations, and design new products that better fit customer needs and trends.
However, such activity is subject to the strict provisions of the GDPR and the Greek Law 4624/2019 that set out the conditions (together with Law 3471/2006 on the protection of personal data in electronic communications, implementing the ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC) under which businesses can lawfully engage in online marketing, while safeguarding the consumers’ right to privacy. The legal framework prescribes specific obligations for data controllers on personal data processing, including transparency, lawfulness of processing, accountability, the implementation of technical and organizational security measures, as well as the handling and compliance (subject to specific conditions set out in the GDPR and the Greek Law 4624/2019 that further specifies the exercise of rights) with the data subjects’ rights.
3.2. Physical store and online store layout
According to Greek legislation (physical and online) store layouts can be protected as a non-traditional trademark, design, or as an original work, provided they meet the specific legal requirements, as illustrated above in the respective sections.
4 . What are the most relevant unfair competition rules for fashion businesses and how do the Courts interpret and enforce these rules?
In Greece, the institutional and legal framework for the protection of competition consists of Law 146/1914 on anti-competitive practices and Law 703/1977 against competition restrictions.
The law of unfair competition intervenes to close ‘gaps’ of the protection offered by IP.
According to Law 146/1914, anyone who commits unfair competition acts will face civil and criminal sanctions. Common acts of unfair competition are the use of a similar or identical trademark, the use of an identical or similar name or logo and the use of identical packaging. The acts of unfair competition also include the dissemination of false news to defame a competitor, as well as false advertising about the products/services provided, which is likely to mislead consumers. Moreover, although Law 146/1914 is limited to commercial transactions, the jurisprudence in Greece today has extended protection to the self-employed, thus helping a predominantly vulnerable group to safeguard its rights.
Customer solicitation, as well as exploitation of another company’s reputation and organization, can, under specific circumstances, be unfair when they take place in a manner contrary to good faith. Devaluation, that is the reduction of the selling price of goods or services is permissible and is not contrary to good faith when the new price is equal to the market value. Unfair competition is exacerbated when combined with misleading advertising. Advertising is lawful only when the information provided is true and corresponds to reality. It is, on the other hand, prohibited when its inaccuracy is capable of influencing in any way the buying behaviour of the advertisement’s recipients. (See Supreme Court (Areios Pagos) 79/2001 in: ΕλλΔνη 42/904 and ΔΕΕ 2011/988, Court of Appeal 1514/2011, and 1439/2007 in: ΔΕΕ 2007, 575), Multi Member Court of First Instance Piraeus 3766/2012.)
The domain name, as a distinctive feature of a certain business, such as that of a fashion brand is protected under Law 146/1914.
Trade secrets regulations
According to Aristotle Onassis ‘the secret of business is to know something that nobody else knows’. Companies have a serious interest in protecting their trade secrets, since very often the know-how of their products and services is the key to their success.
Trade secrets relate to confidential or proprietary information of commercial value. In the absence of specific provisions until recently, trade secrets were subject to Law 146/1914.
Law 4605/2019 implemented Directive 2016/943 for the protection of know-how and trade secrets and introduced amendments to Law 1733/1987 on patents, which provides (in articles 22A – 22K) specific regulations for the protection of know-how and trade secrets. Greek provisions are mainly a translation of the Directive’s related articles. For the rights to be granted, pursuant to the Greek legal provisions, the person who lawfully controls the trade secret must implement measures to protect it. As such, all companies doing business in Greece must develop strategies on the protection of trade secrets, such as security systems, encryption of communications, access barriers, NDAs, etc. Any disclosure of secret information shall result in such information no longer enjoying protection and being free for use by competitors.
With regard to damages, the infringer is liable for compensation calculated by the Court, taking into account “all appropriate factors, such as the negative economic consequences, including lost profits, which the injured party has suffered, any unfair profits made by the infringer and, in appropriate cases, elements other than economic factors, such as the moral prejudice caused to the trade secret holder by the unlawful acquisition, use or disclosure of the trade secret”.
5 . Is there any regulation specifically addressing sustainability or ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) in the fashion industry?
In Greece the fashion industry is steadily shifting towards a new ecosystem with ecological principles and production practices, social responsibility and ethical manufacturing processes. The Slow Fashion Movement has inspired young Greek designers who incorporate the principles of fairness, transparency and sustainability in the production cycle. Yet, there is no regulation specific to sustainability in the fashion industry.
Apart from the ISO certifications, the EU eco-label and organic label, there is a long list of different eco-labels both at an EU and international level, some of which are specific to the fashion industry (for Greece see www.ecolabelindex.com/ecolabels/?st=country,gr).
In addition to ISO 9001 (implemented by textile manufacturers to lower operation costs and control output quality, while maintaining customer satisfaction), ISO 14001 (Environment Management System) can also be applied to the textile and apparel industries.
6 . Customs monitoring: do any special import and export rules apply to fashion products?
In Greece the procedures for custom monitoring and seizures by local Custom Offices are subject to Regulation 608/2013 (the Regulation).
The Regulation allows Customs authorities to prevent or suspend authorizing the receipt of goods to the recipient or allows them to seize goods they suspect infringe IPRs, and to inform the rights holders of their right to appeal before the competent Judicial Authority. In Greece the competent authority for the receipt and examination of the rights holders’ applications is the Customs Region of Attica.
The Regulation’s scope includes, inter alia, counterfeit products and goods infringing an IPR, such as patents, trademarks, designs, or copyrighted work. Although not explicitly referenced, the above also include fashion products.
The rights holder may submit a written request either for the intervention of the Customs Authorities of Greece (national request for intervention), or the intervention of the Customs Authorities of both the country and other EU Member States (EU application for intervention). The application must contain all the necessary information to allow the Customs Authorities to easily identify the goods. No fee or warranty is required for the administrative costs relating to the examination of the application.
The Regulation prescribes a simplified procedure for the destruction of the seized goods or those whose license has been suspended (article 23) under Customs control if within 10 working days (the deadline can be extended by 10 additional days) upon receipt of the notification provided for in Article 9, the rights holder informs in writing that the goods infringe IPRs and submits, before the Customs authorities, the written consent of the declarant or holder of the goods that these are abandoned and to be destroyed. The Customs authorities shall keep samples of the goods, which will then be destroyed at the expense and under the responsibility of their owner. The Regulation provides for a new special procedure (to be requested by the IPR holder, with the submission of an intervention request) for the destruction of goods in small consignments (Article 26) provided that: shipping is by mail or courier service, which does not include more than 3 pieces, or whose gross weight does not exceed 2 kg and the products are not consumable.
The EU handbook on national and Community applications for intervention includes the useful Documents & Information/Instructions e-Services (www.aade.gr/sites/default/files/2020-12/manual_EL_1_COM_FEBR_2009.pdf) on the application process for intervention in the competent Customs Region of Attica.
7 . Frequently Asked Questions