Singapore is First to Ratify Key International Trademark Treaty
March 26, 2007
Singapore became the first state to ratify a new international treaty on trademarks, concluded less than one year ago under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and which bears the country’s name in recognition of it having hosted the final round of negotiations that led to the Treaty’s adoption. The Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks (“Singapore Treaty”) was adopted on March 27, 2006 and capped international efforts to update the 1994 Trademark Law Treaty (TLT) bringing it in line with the technological developments of the past decade. The Singapore Treaty will enter into force once it has been adhered to by ten countries or qualifying intergovernmental organizations.
The Director General welcomed this development noting, “The fact that Singapore is the first country to ratify this important treaty on trademarks is a further sign of its commitment to strategic use of the intellectual property system for business development and wealth creation.” Dr. Idris said that trademarks are prime business assets through which brand ownership is ascertained, and underlined the importance of common international rules in these areas, saying, “Successful brands, underpinned by trademark protection, are a key to a company’s sustained financial viability and a signal to consumers of its ability to deliver on a promise. For trademark owners, standardized registration procedures are critical as this helps to contain transaction costs by increasing the efficiency of trademark services.” The Director General expressed the hope that other countries would follow Singapore’s lead in finalizing the national processes that pave the way for ratification of this Treaty.
Singapore’s instrument of ratification was deposited with the Director General of WIPO on March 26, 2007.
While Singapore is the first to finalize the ratification process, over 50 countries have already signed it. By signing the Treaty, states declare their support for the Treaty and their intention to formally join it. For more information on signatory states please visit //www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/singapore/.
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. The Singapore Treaty also 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.
Once it enters into force, it will create a level playing field for all economic operators that invest in branded goods and a dynamic regulatory framework for brand rights. The Treaty marks a new approach to securing investment in product differentiation. It 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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