International Trademark System Set To Expand

Geneva, September 25, 2003
Press Releases PR/2003/358

Companies and individuals seeking to protect their trademarks in multiple countries will be able to file their applications in the Spanish language as of April 1. 2004 following a decision today by member states attending the annual meeting of Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva from September 22 to October 1, 2003. Currently, international trademark applications under the Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks are required to be submitted in English and/or French.

WIPO Director General, Dr. Kamil Idris, welcomed the decision which, he said "heralds a new era for international trademark protection. The adoption of Spanish as the third working language of the Madrid Protocol is an historic development. It is an added incentive for hispanophone countries to join the system and paves the way for its wider use, making it a truly global registration system." The Madrid system for the international registration of trademarks offers businesses in all participating countries a simple, affordable and efficient way of obtaining and maintaining their trademarks, the Director General added.

Member states also agreed on a series of measures designed to ensure that the Madrid Protocol, one of the two international treaties governing international trademark protection, and the European Community trademark system are fully compatible with each other. Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Mr. Erik Nooteboom, Head of the Industrial Property Unit of European Union Directorate for the Internal Market, said that this was a truly historic moment and that this will enable the European Community (EC) to adhere to the Madrid Protocol. He said that it was likely that the EC would submit its instrument of accession to the Madrid Protocol within one year. The accession of the EC to the Madrid Protocol will be the first time that the EC, as a regional body, adheres to a WIPO treaty.

The Madrid system, which currently has a membership of 73 countries, gives a trademark owner the possibility of protecting a trademark in several countries by simply filing one application, in one language, with one set of fees in one currency (Swiss francs). It is a cost-effective and efficient way for trademark holders to ensure protection for their marks in multiple countries through the filing of a single application. An international registration produces the same effects as an application for registration of the mark made in each of the countries designated by the applicant. If protection is not refused by the trademark office of a designated country, the protection of the mark is the same as if it had been registered by that office.

The Madrid system is governed by two treaties: the Madrid Agreement, dating from 1891 and revised several times since then, and the Madrid Protocol, which came into operation in 1996, introducing some new features into the system to address difficulties that had impeded adherence by certain countries. A country may adhere to either the Agreement or to the Protocol or to both.

Trademarks, key components of any successful business marketing strategy, are signs to distinguish the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises. They also serve as an indication of quality and are of significant and growing economic importance. The protection available by registering a trademark ensures the exclusive right to use it to identify the owner's goods or services, or to authorize another party, usually through a license or franchise, to use it in return for payment.

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