International Trademarks and the Madrid Protocol

Protecting your logo and so on with a trademark is a smart move. Ah, but what about protecting it in the United States AND internationally? Filling for a trademark is a smart move for practically any business. Although the process can be lengthy, the final approval gives you the ability to stop competitors from using your mark to confuse consumers and perhaps steal them.

To obtain a trademark, one has to file an application with the Patent and Trademark Office. The application sets out the areas, known as classes, you wish the mark to apply to. Once the “PTO” approves your application, it is published for comment. Assuming no objections are raised, your trademark is approved. It is important to understand, however, the mark only applies to the United States.

If you want to gain international protection for your trademark, you need to understand the Madrid Protocol. The protocol was created to deal with problems where two marks were registered in different countries and conflicts then resulted. The idea is to create a clearinghouse where a trademark in one country automatically applies to the other countries signing on to the Protocol. The United States signed on to the Madrid Protocol in 2003. 80 others have signed on as well, including most major economic countries.

To apply for an international trademark, one files a form with the Patent and Trademark Office. The application must perfectly match the national mark you are seeking. Once filed, it is forwarded by the Patent and Trademark Office to the International Bureau in Switzerland where the application is run against an international database and approved or rejected.

The cost for filing the international application is $100 per class you wish the mark to apply to, although there are exceptions where $150 is the cost. If approved, the registration will last for a period of 10 years. You can renew the registration for subsequent 10 year periods as necessary.

Filing an international trademark is a smart move if you envision your business entering international transactions. A question of cost effectiveness, however, certainly needs to be considered for most small businesses. Simply put, your money may be spent more effectively in other areas.

Richard A. Chapo is with – providing trademark registration services.

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