Spanish Becomes Working Language of International Trademark System

Geneva, April 1, 2004
Press Releases PR/2004/379

As of April 1, 2004, users of the international trademark system can file applications in Spanish, in addition to English and French, thereby removing language as a barrier for more hispanophone countries to join the Madrid Protocol for the International Registration of Trademarks, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

"The introduction of Spanish as a working language of the Madrid Protocol heralds a new era in international trademark protection" said, Ernesto Rubio, WIPO Assistant Director General in charge of trademark affairs. "It gives an added incentive to hispanophone countries to join Spain and Cuba, the only two Spanish-speaking countries currently in the system, and others and paves the way for its wider use, making it a truly global registration system" he added. Mr. Rubio said, "In today's global marketplace, trademarks play a key role, particularly in the field of export promotion and WIPO's international trademark registration services offer a quick, easy and cost-effective way to obtain trademark protection in multiple countries".

WIPO received 23,872 trademark applications in 2003 under the Madrid system for the International Registration of Marks. This represented a 3% increase over 2002. Germany topped the list of largest users for the eleventh year running with 4,999 international registrations (22.9%), followed by France (3,281 or 15%), Switzerland (2,204 or 10.1%) and countries of the Benelux—Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands (2,104 or 9.6%). For more information on use of the Madrid system in 2003, please consult https://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/prdocs/2004/wipo_pr_2004_376.html.

In the first quarter of 2004, the Madrid system saw a 12.5% growth in use as compared to the same period (January-March) in 2003, or 6,565 applications compared to 5,831 in 2003. Germany led with 1,257 applications, followed by France (703), Benelux countries (633), Italy (513), Switzerland (499), China (370), United States of America (368), Austria (308), United Kingdom (222) and Spain (220).

Prospects for further growth of the Madrid Protocol are promising owing to recent developments such as the membership in November 2003 of the United States of America, the country with the largest international trademark activity. In its five months as a member of the Madrid Protocol, the United States joined the top ten users of the Madrid Protocol. The European Community's declared intention to join the system this year and the inclusion of Spanish as a working language are also very positive indicators for future growth.

By the end of 2003, some 412,000 international trademark registrations, belonging to over 134,000 different trademark holders, were in force in the International Register. Those international registrations represented the equivalent of some 4.9 million national registrations, taking into account that, as an average, each international registration extends its effects to some 12 designated countries.

The International Trademark System gives a trademark owner the possibility of having a mark protected in up to 74 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 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 system provides 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.

The system is governed by two international treaties, namely the Madrid Agreement for the International Registration of Trademarks and the Madrid Protocol. The Madrid Protocol which became operational in 1996 introduced features, such as the ability to submit applications in English and extension of the period of notification of a refusal of trademark rights to 18 months, which made the system more flexible and attractive to a larger number of countries.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

  • Tel: (+41 22) - 338 81 61 or 338 95 47
  • Fax: (+41 22) - 338 88 10
  • Email: publicinf@wipo.int.