International trademark activity recovered during 2010, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which received 39,687 applications under the 85-member Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks (“the Madrid system”). This increase in application from 2009 to 2010 represents a 12.8% rate of growth. Growth was the largest for the Republic of Korea (+42.2%), China (+42%), Italy (+38.7%), United States of America (+29.6%), European Union (+26.9%) and Japan (+20.2%).
Similarly, international trademark registrations were also up, rising 4.5% in 2010 compared with 2009. The total number of international trademark registrations for 2010 were 37,533. WIPO also announced 21,949 international trademark renewals in 2010, representing an increase of 14.1% compared with 2009. In fact, according to Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General, “International trademark activity has rebounded and has nearly recovered the ground lost in 2009.”
The WIPO-administered Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks offers a trademark owner the possibility of having a mark protected in up to 85 countries 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 first apply for trademark protection in a relevant national or regional trademark office before seeking international protection.
An international registration under the Madrid system produces the same effects as an application for registration of the 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, the status of the mark is the same as if it had been registered by that office. Thereafter, the international registration can be maintained and renewed through a single procedure. Thus, the system provides a cost-effective and efficient way for trademark holders to secure and maintain protection for their marks in multiple countries.
Trademarks are a key component of any successful business marketing strategy as they allow companies to identify, promote and license their goods or services in the marketplace and to distinguish them from those of their competitors, and cement customer loyalty. A trademark can symbolize 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 makes it difficult for others to “free ride” on the goodwill of a company by using similar distinctive signs to market inferior or similar products or services, of course vigilant monitoring and enforcement of trademark rights where necessary is required if not demanded. Loss, dilution or infringement of a high-value trademark could prove devastating to a business. It takes a very long time to build up good will, but can take only an instant to lose good will altogether and perhaps even have a negative connotation arise. See Brand Identity: Protecting Against Negative Good Will.
According to WIPO increased trademark activity observed in 2010 reflects the value of established brands at a time when consumers opt for goods that are tried and trusted. This does make sense given that consumers are watching their pocketbooks closely so they would tend to be more risk averse with expenditures and gravitate toward names and brands that are known and trusted. I do, however, I believe the increased international filings also suggests that businesses are seeing an end to the turbulent times caused by the worldwide Great Recession. Perhaps the end is not hear, but it would seem likely that businesses can see it coming. Even with consumers looking more to trademarks that suggest quality and have established good will, if the economy were not looking better it would be hard to explain why such dramatic increases in trademark filings would be seen.