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Introduction to Trademarks


International Trademark Rights

Updated, July 2014

1. In which countries should I register my mark? 

You should consider registering your mark in any countries in which you currently offer your products or services under that mark. You should also consider filing in those countries where you intend to use the mark for your products or services in the future. Use of a mark is not a prerequisite for filing an application in most countries; however, some countries do have use requirements. Consult local counsel for more information.

2. Can an applicant secure a trademark registration covering more than one country?

Yes. Several international agreements make it possible to file a single application to register a mark in more than one country. For example, a registration with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) offers trademark protection in the Benelux territory (Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). A Community Trade Mark registration protects a trademark in all the member states of the European Union. The Madrid Agreement and the Madrid Protocol make it possible to file an application for an International Registration, which will offer a trademark protection in any of the countries the applicant designates that are party to one or the other of those treaties. Filing with the African Intellectual Property Organization or the African Regional Industrial Property Organization protects a trademark in all the member states of the respective organizations.

3. What is a Community Trade Mark?

The Community Trade Mark (CTM) system offers trademark owners a unified system of protection throughout the European Union (EU) with the filing of a single application. If successful, this one application results in a CTM registration that is recognized in all the member states of the EU. As new member states are added to the EU, the coverage of existing CTMs automatically expands, without any action or payment on the part of the CTM owner; the protection of an extended CTM in a new member state, however, dates from the admission date of the member state, rather than from the filing date of the CTM. The initial registration period is ten years from the date of filing of the CTM application.

The registering authority is the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), in Alicante, Spain. A CTM registration may be beneficial for several reasons: (1) it is a time-saving and cost-effective procedure; (2) having to maintain just a single trademark registration results in administrative efficiencies; and, perhaps most important, (3) genuine use in one EU member state may be sufficient to protect a CTM in all member states from cancellation on the ground of non-use. On the other hand, there is a risk that if a ground for rejection applies in just one of the member states, the mark cannot be registered as a CTM, although conversion to national applications is possible in some cases.

4. What is the Paris Convention?

The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property is an international treaty concerning the protection of intellectual property. It has been adopted by 175 countries. The countries to which the Paris Convention applies constitute the Paris Union. The main principle of the Convention is that nationals of any country of the Union are afforded the same advantages with respect to intellectual property protection and enforcement that the national law of any country of the Union grants its citizens.

5. What is meant by “Convention Priority?”

The right of priority under the Paris Convention provides that on the basis of a trademark application filed in one of the countries in the Union, the applicant may, within six months of that filing, apply for protection in any of the other countries in the Union. Any of these subsequent applications will be regarded as if they had been filed on the same day as the first application; that is, they have priority over applications filed by others during that six-month period for the same mark.

6. What is the Madrid System?

The Madrid System is a system for the international registration of marks. It provides a means to seek protection for a trademark simultaneously in a large number of jurisdictions. The system is governed by two separate international treaties, the Madrid Agreement (Agreement) and the Madrid Protocol (Protocol). Under the Agreement, nationals of any signatory may secure protection of their trademark, registered in the country of origin, in all other states that are party to the Agreement. Under the Protocol, nationals of any signatory may secure protection in countries and jurisdictions that are contracting parties to the Protocol based on a pending application or registration in the country or jurisdiction of origin. Both the Agreement and the Protocol are administered by the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization. As of September 1, 2008, for countries bound by both the Agreement and the Protocol, only the provisions of the Protocol apply. Consequently, from that date, International Registrations are governed exclusively by the Protocol (1) in all countries and jurisdictions that are party only to the Protocol and (2) in those countries that are party to both the Protocol and the Agreement. The Agreement governs only those countries that are bound solely by the Agreement.

7. What is an International Registration?

An International Registration (IR) is the designation for a registration secured under the Madrid System.

8. What is ARIPO?

ARIPO (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization) was formed by members of certain English-speaking African nations. The organization enables applicants to file a single application for the protection of a trademark in designated countries that are contracting states to the Lusaka Agreement, which created ARIPO.

9. What is OAPI?

OAPI (Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle) was formed by members of certain French-speaking African nations. The organization enables applicants to file a single application for protection of a trademark in designated countries that are party to the Bangui Agreement, which created OAPI.

10. What is the Andean Pact?

The Andean Pact is an agreement among the member countries of the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) that provides for one common trademark law among the member countries.

The Andean Pact does not provide for a common trademark registration. Rather, it provides for certain reciprocal rights to be available upon request of the trademark owner. For example, an entity that first applied for registration of a trademark in a member country may lodge an opposition against a similar mark filed in any of the other member countries. Moreover, use of a trademark in any one of the member countries constitutes use in all member countries if the trademark is the subject of an action for cancellation for non-use.

11. Can the same mark be owned by different parties in different countries? 

As trademark rights generally are geographic in scope, it is possible for a trademark to be registered in different countries by different owners. Consequently, trademark owners should consider obtaining protection for their marks in all countries or regions of interest in order to secure rights and prevent others from obtaining them. In a few countries, there can be more than one registration for a trademark, with each registration covering a different geographical region of the country.

Additional INTA Resources

Practitioner’s Guide to the Madrid Agreement and Madrid Protocol
Searchable database of practical information on the local application of one or both treaties in the countries/jurisdictions that are party to the Agreement and/or contracting parties to the Protocol. INTA Membership required.

Topic Portal: Madrid System
Community Trade Mark Fact Sheet
Community Trade Mark and the Madrid Protocol Comparison Fact Sheet
Fees for International Registration Applications Under the Madrid Protocol Fact Sheet
International Treaties Fact Sheet
Madrid Protocol Fact Sheet
Madrid Protocol Presentation

Other Resources

WIPO’s Madrid Protocol Resources

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