Well-known marks

Well-known trade and service marks enjoy in most countries protection against signs which are considered a reproduction, imitation or translation of that mark provided that they are likely to cause confusion in the relevant sector of the public. Well-known marks are usually protected, irrespective of whether they are registered or not, in respect of goods and services which are identical with, or similar to, those for which they have gained their reputation. In many countries, they are also, under certain conditions protected for dissimilar goods and services. It should be noted that, while there is no commonly agreed detailed definition of what constitutes a “well-known mark,” countries may take advantage of the WIPO Joint Recommendation Concerning Provisions on the Protection of Well-Known Marks [PDF].


Protection of Well-known Marks

Many countries protect unregistered well-known marks in accordance with their international obligations under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement). Consequently, not only big companies but also SMEs may have a good chance of establishing enough goodwill with customers so that their marks may be recognized as well-known marks and acquire protection without registration. It is, nevertheless, advisable to seek registration, taking into account that many countries provide for an extended protection of registered well-known marks against dilution (Art. 16.3 TRIPS), i.e., the reputation of the mark being weakened by the unauthorized use of that mark by others.

You should be aware of the fact that a number of trademark laws merely implement obligations under Article 16.3. of the TRIPS Agreement and protect well-known registered trademarks only under the following conditions:

  • that the goods and services for which the other mark is used or is seeking protection are not identical with or similar to the goods for which the well-known mark acquired its reputation
  • that the use of the other mark would indicate a connection between these goods and the owner of the well-known mark, and
  • that his interests are likely to be damaged by such use.