WIPO Registers 900,000th Mark Under the International Trademark System

Geneva, October 27, 2006
Press Releases PR/2006/466

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) registered this week the 900,000th mark under the Madrid system for the international registration of trademarks, a user-friendly and cost-effective system for the international registration of marks. At the current rate of growth, it is anticipated that the one millionth mark under the Madrid system will be reached in 2009. The 900,000 milestone was a trademark registered by a Chinese company seeking protection in ten countries on four continents.

China, which became a member of the Madrid system in 1989, is now the eighth largest user of the system. Some 1,057 international applications were received by WIPO from Chinese users in the first nine months of 2006. China is also the most designated country in international trademark applications, with more than 40% of the applications designating China.

The international trademark system administered by WIPO offers a trademark owner the possibility of having a mark protected in up to 77 countries and the European Community (EC) by filing one application, in one language (English, French or Spanish), with one set of fees, in one currency (Swiss Francs). Applicants wishing to use the Madrid system must apply for trademark protection in a relevant national or regional trademark office before seeking international protection. Thereafter, the international registration can be maintained and renewed through a single procedure at WIPO.

An international registration under the Madrid system produces the same effects as an application for registration of a 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 within a 12 month time period (or 18 months for certain contracting parties), 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 owners 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 possibility for applicants to submit applications in English and for trademark offices of contracting parties to extend the period within which refusals should be notified. These features made the system more flexible and attractive to a larger number of countries. The total number of contracting parties to the Protocol is 67 and the overall current membership of the Madrid system is 78 (77 countries plus the European Community).

By the end of September 2006, about 465,000 international trademark registrations belonging to some 150,000 different trademark holders (many of them SMEs), were in force in the international register. Those international registrations represented the equivalent of some 5.1 million national registrations, in view of the fact that, on average, international registrations extend their effects to 11 to 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 as they allow them to identify, promote and license their goods or services in the marketplace and to distinguish these 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. Loss, dilution or infringement of a high-value trademark could prove devastating to a business

The largest share of the 33,565 international trademark applications received by WIPO in 2005 was filed by users in Germany (17.3% of the total), followed by users in France (10.4%), the United States of America (8.5%), Benelux (7.2%), Italy (7.0%), Switzerland (6.7%), the European Community (5.5%) and China (4.0%). These figures relate to international applications filed through the trademark offices of the members concerned. Applications from developing countries increased by 30.6% over 2004, with China topping the list of users.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section: Tel: (+41 22) 338 8161 or 338 9547 Fax: (+4122) 338 8280; E-mail: publicinf@wipo.int.