World Intellectual Property Organization

New International Treaty

April 2006

Director General: Kamil Idris: 'The adoption of the new Treaty marks a major milestone.' (Photo:  Lee Lay Na)
Director General: Kamil Idris: 'The adoption of the new Treaty marks a major milestone.' (Photo: Lee Lay Na)

The Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks

WIPO Member States on March 28 adopted a new international treaty on trademarks. The new treaty, to be known as the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks in recognition of the country that hosted the final round of negotiations, provides simplified and internationally harmonized administrative rules for trademark registration, and creates a framework for defining the reproduction of non-visible marks, such as sound and smell marks. It concludes efforts by Member States to update the 1994 Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) and bring it in line with the technological developments of the past decade. "In establishing the Treaty, the governments of WIPO’s Member States collectively send out a powerful message …that intellectual property has a central role to play in the new information society," said WIPO Director General Kamil Idris in his message to the closing ceremony of the Diplomatic Conference. He added "The Singapore Treaty, as the first international treaty in the field of intellectual property in the new century, reaffirms the importance of trademarks in promoting domestic and international trade and in enhancing enterprise development and consumer confidence."

A total of 162 delegations from Member States, as well as a number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, participated in the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of a Revised Trademark Law Treaty, which opened on March 13 and was slated to end on March 28. The positive atmosphere and strong commitment of Member States to concluding the treaty resulted in negotiations ending three days ahead of schedule. "I believe this was because every delegate in the conference recognized the importance of the treaty," commented Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, the President of the Diplomatic Conference and Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization and the United Nations in Geneva. "It will boost international trade and deliver an enhanced and harmonized trademark procedure that will benefit nations, brands and businesses."

Common standards

The Singapore Treaty deals mainly with procedural aspects of trademark registration and licensing. By agreeing to common standards, Member States create a level playing field for all economic operators that invest in branded goods. Moreover, it creates a dynamic regulatory framework for brand rights. The Treaty establishes an Assembly of the contracting parties, providing a built-in review mechanism for administrative details of a lesser order, but of great practical importance for brand owners.

Recognizing developments in the branded goods industry, the Treaty marks a new approach to securing investment in product differentiation. Brands are no longer confined to labels on goods; a brand today stands for the product’s identity. Creativity and investment go into the development of brands, and businesses need to be able to secure that investment. New rules contained in the Singapore Treaty, applicable to all types of trademarks, address those needs.

The Singapore Treaty takes into account the advantages of electronic filing and communication facilities, while recognizing the different needs of developing and developed nations. Concerns expressed during negotiations by some developing and least developed states about their ability to fully benefit from the Treaty resulted in a commitment by industrialized countries to provide technical assistance and other support to strengthen the institutional capacity of those countries so as to enable them to take full advantage of the Treaty.

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