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What is the Madrid System?

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  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Formally known as the Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks, the Madrid System facilitates the registration of trademarks in multiple countries — referred to as jurisdictions in intellectual property law— by providing a single, universally accepted course of action. By allowing trademark seekers to register with one central organization as opposed to registering with each individual country, the Madrid System is cost efficient and promotes globalization. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) superintends the Madrid System in accordance with the terms contained in two treaties: the Madrid Protocol and the Madrid Agreement. Not every country in the world is obliged to follow the Madrid System and participating countries may be in accordance under one or both of the governing intellectual property treaties. Most of the world’s leading economies, including China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan, are parties to one or both of the treaties, however.

When registering under the Madrid System, trademark owners solicit the WIPO for an international registration through a basic application. Then, through a procedure known as designation, the trademark owner can register the trademark with the participating countries of his or her choosing. Furthermore, the trademark can be expanded to cover new jurisdictions' existing member countries at any time.

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Two agreements determine the terms and scope of the Madrid System: the Madrid Protocol and the Madrid Agreement. The Madrid Protocol has more members agreeing to be bound by its terms than the Madrid Agreement. One of the primary reasons for this is that the Madrid Protocol allows pending trademarks — trademarks not yet recognized in their country of origin — to be registered with the WIPO simultaneously. If the country where the trademark is pending accepts the trademark application, the trademark automatically registers with other countries whereas the Madrid Agreement only allows for the international registration of trademarks that have already been established. Also, the Madrid Protocol gives each individual country the right to determine whether or not the trademark owner’s request for protection will be accepted in that territory.

The Madrid System does have some flaws however. If problems related to trademark violation do arise in particular participating country, the trademark owner may have to use the legal system in that country as opposed to filing a complaint through the WIPO. Also, the terms in the basic application apply to all countries and any changes made to the basic application affect the trademark’s status in every jurisdiction. This requirement is somewhat rigid and prevents trademarks from being tailored for specific countries.

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