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Protecting Your Business Abroad – What You Need To Know About International Trade Marks?

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So you’ve registered your trade mark in the UK, and you’ve also applied for a Community Trade Mark to protect your business in the EU, but now you want to think about worldwide expansion. How do you go about getting a trade mark registered everywhere else?

What is an international trade mark?

The first thing to understand is that there is no such thing as a standalone ‘international trade mark’. If you want to register your trade mark outside of the EU, you have to apply to each country individually and your application will be processed by each respective country’s IP office.

Applying to individual countries sounds complicated, however the process isn’t quite as tricky and time consuming as you may think. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) offers a solution called the Madrid System, which allows you to apply for a trade mark in multiple countries at once.

What is the Madrid System?

The Madrid Union is a 120 year-old agreement between countries to facilitate the registration of international trade marks. Today it has 97 members, including the UK, EU and OAPI (African Intellectual Property Organisation,) that represent 113 countries and 80% of world trade. Using the WIPO’s Madrid System, you can register a trade mark in any number and combination of these countries by filling in a single application and then the status of your trade mark in each country can be tracked and managed centrally through the WIPO site.

Without the Madrid System, international trade mark applications may have to be translated, incurring additional costs, and fees paid in multiple currencies, whereas WIPO requires a single payment in one currency (Swiss Francs.)

What can be registered as a trade mark internationally?

Anything that you can trade mark in the UK, you can apply for a trade mark for internationally, however you must have an existing UK or EU trade mark (or current application) before you can apply for that trade mark internationally. Your international application must be identical to your existing trade mark registration, and you cannot add any classes but you can subtract some. (For a refresher on trade mark classifications, see our understanding trade mark classes blog post)

The fate of your international trade mark is also tied to your UK registration. If within the first 5 years of your Madrid System application, your UK registration or application is withdrawn, refused, cancelled or restricted, the same will also apply to your international application.

Due to these strict rules and the complexity of trade mark applications, it’s a good idea to work with a trade mark attorney on your Madrid System application.

Have more questions about international trade marks? Give us a call on +44(0)20 7791 9050 or fill in our contact form and one of our experienced trade mark attorneys will get back to you ASAP for a free, no obligation chat and advice!

FAQs

How much does it cost?

The cost of an international trade mark application depends on which countries you have chosen and how many countries. The WIPO has a fee calculator you can use to work out the cost of your application.

Regardless of which countries you apply to, the fee is charged in Swiss Francs (CHF).

How long does it take?

International trade mark applications take on average 12-18 months. Each country has its own time limit for processing applications.

How long does an international trade mark last?

Trade mark registrations abroad last the same length of time as in the UK – 10 years – and can be renewed the same as UK trade marks.

Am I guaranteed to get my trade mark?

There are no guarantees that your application will succeed in every country you apply to. As with UK and EU trade marks, your application can be contested.

In some countries, if your application is contested and you withdraw it, or lose your challenge to the opposition, you may have to pay towards their costs, therefore it is advisable to seek advice from a trade mark attorney in this case.

The good news is that if your trade mark application is contested or refused in any particular country, it won’t affect your applications in other countries in any way.

I need to register my trade mark in the UK first. How do I do that?

Find out more by reading our UK trade mark application process blog post.

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