USA Ratifies the Singapore Treaty

Geneva, October 1, 2008
PR/2008/568

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Mr. Francis Gurry, welcomed the ratification by the United States of America (USA) on October 1, 2008 of the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks, an international treaty on trademarks that streamlines and modernizes certain trademark office procedures. 

The American delegation which deposited the USA instrument of ratification with the WIPO Director General on October 1, 2008, was led by Ambassador Warren Tichenor, Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva. “The U.S. looks forward to the Singapore Treaty entering into force,” said Ambassador Tichenor. “This ratification is a step in that direction. The Treaty will benefit not only U.S. companies but those of all signatories looking to protect their trademarks abroad, efficiently and cost-effectively.”
 
The Singapore Treaty, which was concluded under WIPO’s auspices in March 2006, capped international efforts to update the 1994 Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) in order to keep pace with the evolution of trademark practice. The Treaty will enter into force as soon as 10 contracting parties (countries or qualifying intergovernmental organizations) have deposited instruments of ratification to the Treaty with the WIPO Director General. The US ratification brings the current number of states party to the Treaty to eight. 
 
Mr. Gurry welcomed the ratification by the US as equally beneficial to US trademark owners operating in international markets and to the many trademark owners in other contracting states operating in the USA. “Once the Treaty enters into force,” said Mr. Gurry, “brand owners will benefit from reduced transaction costs thanks to the efficiencies built into the Treaty, which simplifies and standardizes trademark office procedures.”  Mr. Gurry expressed confidence that more countries would soon finalize the national processes that pave the way to ratification. 
 
Over 50 countries have already signed the Treaty. By signing it, states declare their support for the Treaty and their intention to formally join it. The Treaty becomes binding for states once the instrument of ratification or accession has been deposited with the Director General of WIPO. Singapore, which hosted the final round of negotiations in 2006 leading to the Treaty’s adoption, was the first country to finalize the ratification process in March 2007, followed by Switzerland, Bulgaria, Romania, Denmark, Latvia and Kyrgyzstan. For more information on signatory states please visit //www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/singapore/.
 
Background
The Singapore Treaty deals mainly with procedural aspects of trademark registration and licensing and introduces greater flexibilities and efficiencies into the delivery of trademark registration services. By eliminating red tape, enabling trademark authorities to take advantage of modern communications technologies, and further simplifying and standardizing trademark office procedures, the Treaty promises to reduce transaction costs for brand owners. This is a positive development for any company with a trademark portfolio as they will be better placed to develop and actively market their brands in both domestic and international markets. Once it enters into force, the Treaty will create a level playing field for all economic operators that invest in branded goods and a dynamic regulatory framework for brand rights. 
 
The Singapore Treaty recognizes the specific needs of developing and least developed nations and includes a commitment by industrialized countries to provide adequate technical assistance and other forms of support to strengthen the institutional capacity of those countries to enable them to take full advantage of the Treaty.
 
The Treaty explicitly recognizes that trademarks are no longer limited to two dimensional labels on products and specifically mentions new types of marks such as hologram marks, and non-visible signs, such as sound or taste marks. Although such marks are at present relatively uncommon, it is likely that their popularity will rise as companies seek novel promotional ideas for their products in the ever-evolving marketplace. 
 
The Treaty also establishes common rules for the recording, amendment and cancellation of trademark licenses. This development is particularly welcome in light of the fact that more than 100 countries around the world provide for the recording of trademark licenses although this is not always mandatory. In this context, the branded goods sector, in which trademark licensing is widely practiced, stands to benefit from greater legal certainty, cost savings and efficiencies.
 
 The Treaty also introduces new mandatory relief measures for trademark office procedures in order to alleviate procedural mistakes by trademark applicants, notably, missed time limits, which, if not remedied, could be detrimental to trademark rights. These measures are designed to enable swifter and more transparent trademark office procedures. 
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