Trademark protection is generally territorial in nature. This means that trademark protection has to be sought under different jurisdictions to obtain protection under those jurisdictions. In order to obviate practical difficulties and hardships during such trademark application at international level, Madrid Agreement and Madrid Protocol have been adopted by the international community. The Madrid Protocol was adopted to render the Madrid system more flexible and more compatible with the domestic legislations of certain countries which had not been able to accede to the Madrid Agreement.
The Madrid Agreement and Protocol are open to any State which is party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. The two treaties are parallel and independent and States may adhere to either of them or to both. In addition, an intergovernmental organisation which maintains its own Office for the registration of marks may become party to the Protocol. Instruments of ratification or accession must be deposited with the Director General of WIPO. States and organisations which are party to the Madrid system are collectively referred to as Contracting Parties.
The system makes it possible to protect a mark in a large number of countries by obtaining an international registration which has effect in each of the Contracting Parties that has been designated.
An application for international registration (international application) may be filed only by a natural person or legal entity having a connection, through establishment, domicile or nationality, with a Contracting Party to the Agreement or the Protocol.
A mark may be the subject of an international application only if it has already been registered with the Trademark Office (referred to as the Office of origin) of the Contracting Party with which the applicant has the necessary connections. However, where all the designations are effected under the Protocol the international application may be based on a mere application for registration filed with the Office of origin. An international application must be presented to the International Bureau of WIPO through the intermediary of the Office of origin.
An application for international registration must designate one or more Contracting Parties where protection is sought. Further designations can be effected subsequently. A Contracting Party may be designated only if it is party to the same treaty as the Contracting Party whose Office is the Office of origin. The latter cannot itself be designated in the international application.
The designation of a given Contracting Party is made either under the Agreement or under the Protocol, depending on which treaty is common to the Contracting Parties concerned. If both Contracting Parties are party to both the Agreement and the Protocol, the designation will be governed by the Agreement, in accordance with the so-called “safeguard clause” (Article 9sexies of the Protocol).
Where all the designations are effected under the Agreement the international application, and any other subsequent communication, must be in French. Where at least one designation is effected under the Protocol, the applicant has the option of English, French or Spanish, unless the Office of origin restricts this choice to one of these.
The filing of an international application is subject to the payment of a basic fee (which is reduced to 10% of the prescribed amount for international applications filed by applicants whose country of origin is a Least Developed Country (LDC), in accordance with the list established by the United Nations), a supplementary fee for each class of goods and/or services beyond the first three classes, and a complementary fee for each Contracting Party designated. However, a Contracting Party to the Protocol may declare that when it is designated under the Protocol, the complementary fee is to be replaced by an individual fee, whose amount is determined by the Contracting Party concerned but may not be higher than the amount which would be payable for the registration of a mark with its Office.
Once the International Bureau receives the international application, it carries out an examination for compliance with the requirements of the Agreement, the Protocol, and their Common Regulations. This examination is restricted to formalities, including the classification and comprehensibility of the list of goods and/or services; any matter of substance, such as whether the mark qualifies for protection or whether it is in conflict with an earlier mark, is left to each designated Contracting Party to determine. If there are no irregularities, the International Bureau records the mark in the International Register, publishes the international registration in the WIPO Gazette of International Marks, and notifies it to each designated Contracting Party.
These Contracting Parties may examine the international registration for compliance with their domestic legislation and, if some substantive provisions are not complied with, they have the right to refuse protection in their territory. Any such refusal, including the indication of the grounds on which it is based, must be communicated to the International Bureau, normally within 12 months from the date of the notification. However, a Contracting Party to the Protocol may declare that, when it is designated under the Protocol, this time limit is extended to 18 months. Such a Contracting Party may also declare that a refusal based on an opposition may be communicated to the International Bureau even after this time limit of 18 months.
The refusal is communicated to the holder, recorded in the International Register and published in the Gazette. The procedure subsequent to a refusal (such as an appeal or a review) is carried out directly between the administration or court of the Contracting Party concerned and the holder, without any involvement of the International Bureau. The final decision concerning the refusal must, however, be communicated to the International Bureau, which records and publishes it.
The effects of an international registration in each designated Contracting Party are, as from the date of the international registration, the same as if the mark had been deposited directly with the Office of that Contracting Party. If no refusal is issued within the applicable time limit, or if a refusal originally notified by a Contracting Party is subsequently withdrawn, the protection of the mark in question is, from the date of the international registration, the same as if it had been registered by the Office of that
Protection may be limited with regard to some or all of the goods or services or may be renounced with regard to only some of the designated Contracting Parties. An international registration may be transferred in relation to all or some of the designated Contracting Parties and all or some goods or services.
The system of international registration of marks has several advantages for trademark owners. Instead of filing many national applications in all countries of interest, in several different languages, in accordance with different national procedural rules and regulations and paying several different (and often higher) fees, an international registration may be obtained by simply filing one application with the International Bureau (through the Office of the home country), in one language (either English or French) and paying only one set of fees.
Similar advantages exist when the registration has to be renewed; this involves the simple payment of the necessary fees, every 10 years, to the International Bureau. Likewise, if the international registration is assigned to a third party or any other change, such as a change in name and/or address, has occurred, this may be recorded with effect for all the designated Contracting Parties by means of a single procedural step.
One disadvantage of the Madrid system is that any refusal, withdrawal or cancellation of the basic application or basic registration within five years of the registration date of the international registration will lead to the refusal, withdrawal or cancellation of the international registration to the same extent.
The process of attacking the basic application or basic registration for this purpose is generally known as “central attack”. Under the Madrid Protocol, the effects of a successful central attack can be mitigated by transforming the international registration into a series of applications in each jurisdiction designated by the international registration, a process known as “transformation”. Although transformation is an expensive option of last resort, the resulting applications will receive the registration date of the international registration as their filing date.
In 1997, less than half of a percent of international registrations were canceled as a result of central attack. The cost savings which usually result from using the Madrid system may be negated by the requirement to use local agents in the applicable jurisdiction if any problems arise.