Double Digit Growth Marks Record Year for International Trademark System

Geneva, February 11, 2005
Press Releases PR/2005/402

Geneva, February 15, 2005


Use of the international trademark registration system reached a record level in 2004 with the receipt of 29,459 international trademark applications representing a 23.5% increase on figures for 2003. The international trademark registration system, known as the Madrid system, is a user-friendly and cost-effective service offered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which facilitates the process of securing trademark protection in multiple countries.

For the twelfth consecutive year Germany topped the list of biggest users with 5,393 international applications (18.3%), followed by France with 3,503 (11.9%), Italy 2,499 (8.5%), Benelux 2,482 (8.4%) and Switzerland 2,133 (7.2%). Within 12 months of signing up to the Madrid Protocol - one of two treaties that govern the system - the United States of America filed 1,734 (5.9%) international applications to rank sixth among the biggest users of the Madrid system.

Statistics for 2004 also show a marked increase in the number of international trademark applications originating from countries such as China (+115%), Australia (+100.9%), Republic of Korea (+86.8%), Bulgaria (+82.5%), Japan (+75.6%), Slovenia (64.8%), Latvia (62.7%), Hungary (+47.4%), Austria (+36.8%), Turkey (+36.4%), United Kingdom (+36.1%), Italy (+30.5%), Norway (+29.8%), Slovakia (+27.7%), Singapore (+25.7%), Czech Republic (+24.7%), Sweden (+24.3%), Denmark (+17.9%) and Croatia (+15.4%).

“We are already beginning to see significant increases in the use of the system now that the USA and the European Community are party to the Madrid Protocol. This is a trend which promises to continue as the advantages of the system become more broadly recognized and as new countries come on board,” said Mr. Ernesto Rubio, WIPO Assistant Director General who oversees trademark questions. He noted that WIPO was hopeful that the inclusion of Spanish, as from 2004, as the third working language in which an applicant could submit an application under the Madrid Protocol, would make it easier for new members from the Latin American region to sign up to the system. English and French are the two other official languages of the system.

The international trademark system administered by WIPO allows a trademark owner the possibility of having a mark protected in up to 76 countries by filing one application, in one language, with one set of fees, in one currency (Swiss francs). Thereafter, the international registration can be maintained and renewed through a single procedure. An international registration under the Madrid system produces the same effects as an application for registration of the mark in each of the contracting parties designated by the applicant. If protection is not refused by the trademark office of a designated contracting party, the status of the mark is the same as if it had been registered by that office. In other words, the system provides a cost-effective and efficient way for trademark holders to secure protection for their marks in multiple countries through the filing of a single application.

The system is governed by two international treaties, namely the Madrid Agreement and the Madrid Protocol. The Madrid Protocol which became operational in 1996 introduced several features including the ability to submit applications in English and extend the period for notification of a refusal which made the system more flexible and attractive to a larger number of countries.

In 2004, in addition to the European Community, four countries acceded to the Madrid Protocol, namely Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Namibia and the Syrian Arab Republic bringing the total number of countries party to the Protocol to 66 and the overall current membership of the Madrid System to 77.

The top twenty users of the Madrid system in 2004 were Henkel (Germany), Hofer (Austria), Richter Gedeon (Hungary), Janssen Pharmaceutica (Belgium), Beiersdorf AG (Germany), Siemens (Germany), Novartis (Switzerland), Philips Electronics (Netherlands), Aldi (Germany), Lidl Stiftung & Co (Germany), Deutsche Postbank AG (Germany), Plus Warenhandelsgesellschaft mbH (Germany), L'Oréal (France), Altana Pharma AG (Germany), Nestlé (Switzerland), Unilever N.V. (Netherlands), Volkswagen AG (Germany), Mip Metro Group Intellectual Property GmbH & Co. (Germany), Akzo Nobel Coatings International BV (Netherlands), and Merck (France).

By the end of 2004, some 424,000 international trademark registrations, belonging to over 138,280 different trademark holders, were in force in the international register. Those international registrations represented the equivalent of some 5 million national registrations, in view of the fact that, on average, each international registration extends its effects to some 12 designated countries. The first international trademark registration dates from 1893 and belonged at that time to Swiss chocolate producer Russ Suchard et Cie, but is no longer in effect. The oldest international trademark registration which is still in effect as a result of multiple renewals, belongs to Swiss watchmaker Longines. This trademark was also first registered in 1893.

Trademarks are a key component of any successful business marketing strategy. They are indispensable for businesses in the design of their marketing strategies allowing them to identify, promote and license their goods or services in the marketplace and to distinguish these goods or services from those of their competitors, thereby cementing customer loyalty. A trademark symbolizes the promise of a quality product and in today's global and increasingly electronic marketplace a trademark is often the only way for customers to identify a company's products and services. Trademark protection hinders moves by unfair competitors to “free ride” on the goodwill of a company by using similar distinctive signs to market inferior or similar products or services. Conversely, loss, dilution or infringement of a high-value trademark could prove devastating to a business.

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