International trademark registration procedures vary, as there is currently no comprehensive database or system for applying for global trademark protection. Trademark registration should begin in one country, usually the home country of the business, after which approval can be sought internationally. Regional systems are available to acquire international trademark registration, or applications can be submitted in individual nations for approval.
The first step in obtaining an international trademark registration is to register in one country with the appropriate trademark registration office. Depending on the location, this can be done electronically or in hard copy. Once a trademark has been registered in one country, a business can apply for an international trademark registration.
A business planning to offer its products commercially in a small number of countries might consider applying for protection via national offices. This can decrease fees for registration if only using two or three countries, although this is not necessarily the case. It also provides the business with a direct connection with and knowledge of local trademark processes, helping ensure that renewal needs are met.
In order to register a trademark locally, it must first be verified that said trademark does not previously exist. Since there is no collective database of international trademarks, research will need to be conducted in various databases and perhaps even on the country level. This research will show any potential problems that might arise in obtaining international approval.
Systems that offer international trademark recognition are often broken down into regional areas. The Madrid System registers trademarks in 85 countries. Community Trademark is a system that registers trademarks across the European Union (EU). Aripo Trademark Registration and Oapi Trademark Registration each provide trademark recognition services for separate groups of African countries. Submitting an application for trademark protection through any of these systems does not guarantee protection, as individual countries must still each offer individual approval.
The Madrid System is the primary system of international trademark registration. It offers particular national rights to trademark protected and approved businesses, sending applications to various countries for approval. Having a collaborative system, such as the Madrid System, also facilitates management of the trademark. Changes can be submitted directly and will then filter down into all the corresponding country trademark offices.
In Europe, the Community Trademark (CTM) system offers a type of international trademark registration. Under this system, businesses from the EU member states may apply for trademark registration under a single application. Trademark protection then extends to the entire EU. While this system might prove difficult as more members join the EU, it is currently a system that offers a single option for international trademark registration.