The International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks was established by an Agreement concluded at the Nice Diplomatic Conference, on June 15, 1957, was revised at Stockholm, in 1967, and at Geneva, in 1977, and was amended in 1979.
The countries party to the Nice Agreement constitute a Special Union within the framework of the Paris Union for the Protection of Industrial Property. They have adopted and apply the Nice Classification for the purposes of the registration of marks.
Each of the countries party to the Nice Agreement is obliged to apply the Nice Classification in connection with the registration of marks, either as the principal classification or as a subsidiary classification, and has to include in the official documents and publications relating to its registrations of marks the numbers of the classes of the Classification to which the goods or services for which the marks are registered belong.
Use of the Nice Classification is mandatory not only for the national registration of marks in countries party to the Nice Agreement, but also for the international registration of marks effected by the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP), the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the International Bureau of WIPO. The Nice Classification is also applied in a number of countries not party to the Nice Agreement.
The Nice Classification is based on the Classification prepared by the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI) – predecessor of WIPO – in 1935. It was that Classification, consisting of a list of 34 classes and an alphabetical list of goods, that was adopted under the Nice Agreement and later expanded to embrace also eleven classes covering services and an alphabetical list of those services.
The Nice Agreement provides for the setting-up of a Committee of Experts in which all countries party to the Agreement are represented. The Committee of Experts decides on all changes in the Classification, in particular the transfer of goods and services between various classes, the updating of the alphabetical list and the introduction of necessary explanatory notes.
Since the entry into force of the Nice Agreement, on April 8, 1961, the Committee of Experts has, amongst its most noticeable achievements, carried out the revision of the alphabetical list of goods and services from the point of view of form (in the late 1970s); substantially modified the general remarks, the class headings and the explanatory notes (in 1982); introduced a “basic number” for each single product or service in the alphabetical list (in 1990), which number enables the user to find the equivalent product or service in the alphabetical lists of other language versions of the Classification; revised class 42 with the creation of classes 43 to 45 (in 2000); and undertaken a general review of all class headings and explanatory notes with a view to harmonizing their form and clarifying their content, in particular with the inclusion of specific examples within each class (from 2016 to 2020).
Since, the first edition of the Nice Classification published in 1963, editions are published and enter into force usually every five years. Since 2013, the Nice Classification is revised once a year and a new version of each edition is published annually and enters into force on January 1.
The authentic texts of the Nice Classification (in English and in French) are published online by WIPO. By decision of the Committee of Experts, the paper publication has been discontinued, the 10th edition, published in June 2011, being the last printed edition.