If you’re reading this article, you will have received a notification of provisional refusal by a pre-registered Chinese or American TM holder who thinks your international trademark application is infringing on their IP rights. Here, we will go over the existing procedures to go against such a notification and fight to protect your IP in China and the United States.
The People’s Republic of China is not necessarily renowned for their protection of IP – in fact, more than 70% of all counterfeited goods in trade are estimated to come from China, which accounts for around 12.5% of their goods exported and 1.5% of their GDP. Nonetheless, the Chinese market is gigantic and is an obvious target for many growing companies. Fortunately, they are signatories to the Madrid Protocol and there are certain mechanisms to protect trademarks in China. The most relevant national law to be aware of is the Chinese Trademark Law, and the relevant national TM office is the Chinese National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), or Chinese Trademark Office.
Regarding the procedure, once the international trademark application has been published in the WIPO International TM Gazette, any pre-existing trademark holder may file a notice of opposition within 3 months, starting from one month after the publication date. There will be a further 3-month period to submit relevant documentation.
Once the applicant has received the notification of provisional refusal, they then have 30 days to respond to the opposition. At this point, the applicant must appoint a local representative in order to respond to the opposition. The applicant will also have a 3-month period in order to submit all other documentation relevant to their claim.
It is of utmost importance to understand that the opposition and the response to the opposition shall be the official legal claims of both parties and shall be reviewed by the CNIPA once all documentation has been submitted. These claims should be well-drafted with a coherent structure and a strong legal basis if you are hoping to have the best chances possible to receive a favorable outcome from the Chinese Trademark Office.
We should also take note of the ex officio refusal by the Chinese Trademark Office itself, where they have 12 months to exercise their right of refusal (in some cases 18 months). In this scenario, the trademark applicant will have 15 days to respond to the notice from the date of receipt, where the application shall be returned to the adjudication board of the Chinese Trademark Office for a second review. The CNIPA will then have 9 months to review the application again and will respond to the applicant in writing, declaring their final decision.
If the applicant, either under ex officio provisional refusal or through refusal by opposition, receives a final decision that is unfavorable, they will have 30 days to appeal the decision of the Chinese Trademark Office to the national courts of China. Again, it cannot be understated, to convince a judge that the national trademark office made the wrong decision will require a strong legal argument, something which only experienced IP lawyers can be trusted to construct.
If you would like help relating to an IP matter in China, feel free to get in touch with us.
United States of America
Given that the USA is home to some of the largest companies in the world, as well as being the world’s largest economy, it would be no surprise to find a growing company looking to protect their IP in the United States. The key piece of legislation to be aware of is the Trademark Act, and the relevant TM office is the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO).
Once the trademark application is received by the USPTO, and once provisionally approved by the Director, the application will be published in the Official Gazette of the USPTO. From that date, any pre-registered TM holders may file an opposition to the application within 30 days if they believe that the applicant’s new trademark would infringe on their own. This time period may be extended if requested in writing to the Director.
If this notice of opposition is accepted by the USPTO, they will notify the applicant and shall set up a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in order to come to a final decision on the matter. The Board shall issue an institution order, which is a document that outlines the details of the opposition procedure. This shall be done electronically, and will typically set out a time frame of 40 days for the applicant to respond to the opposition, 6 months for discovery, and then the periods in which the parties can make their testimony – 30 days for the opponent, 30 days for the applicant, and 15 days for the opponent’s rebuttal.
In the applicant’s response to the opposition, they must clearly outline the legal basis for their claim as to why their trademark should be accepted. As stressed previously, it is essential that all arguments submitted to the Board must be based on strong, coherent legal claims – it would be highly recommended hiring an experienced IP lawyer for this.
Once the applicant has answered the opposition, the Discovery period begins, in which both parties may request and receive relevant information and documentation from the counterparty, including written interrogatories, document requests, depositions, and requests for admissions.
At the end of the discovery period, the final stages of the opposition proceedings shall begin. This entails the submission of briefs – mandatory for the opponent, optional (but recommended) for the applicant – which outline each party’s claims. If one of the parties requests an oral hearing, this shall be arranged, however, it should be noted that these hearing are of a summary nature – that is to say, no new evidence may be submitted, only a summary of both parties’ claims. It is common for judges to take advantage of these hearings to clarify aspects of the case that were not entirely clear in the briefs. Once finalized, the Board will make a decision regarding the admissibility of the international trademark application.
If unfavorable, either party may request a rehearing, reconsideration or modification of a decision within 1 month of the date of the decision. If unsuccessful, the losing party can still appeal to either the US Court of Appeals or it can request a brand-new trial in a District Court. A key difference between the two is the ability to introduce new evidence to the case – in the Court of Appeals, no new evidence or arguments may be submitted; in the District Courts, however, it is much more flexible and allows for the introduction of new evidence and arguments.
The US system for registering trademarks can oftentimes seem rather difficult, and just by looking at the law it can still seem unclear as to what path you should take. For any doubts, get in touch with us, and we would be happy to put your mind at ease.Read More
After jumping through all the hoops to register your international trademark, filing the application, and following various quick guides on how to do so, it can be quite concerning to receive a notification of provisional refusal, stating that your trademark, your brand, has hit an obstacle in being protected.
What can I do to protect my IP now? you might be thinking. In this article, we will go over what a provisional refusal is, why it was most likely issued, and what you can do to oppose it and protect your brand.
International TM Registration Recap
The first thing to remember is the process of international trademark registration. After being initially approved by the WIPO, the notification is then sent out to all national trademark offices belonging to Contracting Parties of the Madrid Protocol. The national offices now have up to 12 months to grant or refuse protection (18 months in certain cases). If they refuse, they must send a Notification of Provisional Refusal to the WIPO, where you will soon after receiving news of it through the Madrid Monitor. It will probably look something like this.
It is important to note that it is not a final decision, but instead, the Office must indicate the reasons for why it could likely get refused. This could be from either a negative examination by the Office itself or due to an opposition from a third party. Such an opposition will most likely be from a local company, a preregistered TM holder, that believes that your trademark is infringing upon theirs, or is too similar to their own and could get confused.
It should be noted that this is a provisional refusal by opposition, which is different from an ex officio refusal, which occurs when the national office finds a fault in the application and decides to refuse protection of their own accord.
What can I do against a provisional refusal?
The next step will depend upon which country’s IP office put forward the provisional refusal. Each national office has its own specific procedure to deal with the matter.
All the necessary details should be included in the notification of provisional refusal you received. These details would likely include the grounds for the provisional refusal, the time period in which you must reply to the refusal and request a review/appeal, to whom you should direct such reply, and if you need to hire a local attorney in that country to assist you with the procedure.
If your request for review and appeal is accepted by the national IP office, you will likely have your trademark application compared with an already existing trademark registered nationally in that country.
Depending on what exactly you are wanting to register, the national IP office will compare the shapes, colors, words, and letters included, as well as the similarity of the service/good in relation to the pre-existing trademark, also taking into account the sectorial similarities if any exist. This process may take many months to come to its conclusion, however, every national office has its own rules and deadlines, so you should be very aware of the specific situation of every country.
To learn more about a specific country’s provisional refusal rules and procedures, take a look at our country-by-country guide that will take you through everything you need to know. EU & UK Guide. China & USA Guide. Brazil & Germany Spain & France.
Replying to a provisional refusal
Replying to a provisional refusal will often mean that you will have to convince the national office or a court of appeals why your trademark is sufficiently different from an already existing one in order to be granted protection of your IP. To do so effectively requires not only a strong argument regarding the differentiation of the trademark but also a comprehensive understanding of the legislation and the case-law of that country. Therefore, it is highly recommended that if you receive a notification of provisional refusal regarding your international trademark registration, that you should hire an experienced IP lawyer to help you in the process.
If you are wanting to reply to a provisional refusal, we have vast experience in these procedures and would be more than happy to explain the situation to you and see how we could help out. Contact us!Read More
Knowing how to register your international trademark is necessary if you operate internationally and want to protect your brand. It is the best way to ensure that the time you spent creating your brand image does not go to waste or copied by others. The protection of international trademarks is governed by the Madrid System, composed by the Madrid Agreement and the Madrid Protocol. By following the Madrid System, you can protect your IP across the 122 countries that currently agree to mutually protect each other’s nationals’ trademarks – these countries are known as the Madrid Union. In this article, you will find out how to register an International Trademark, the requirements for filing, the duration, and other practical concerns to be considered.
If you need help or advice in the process, our trademark attorney can help.
Requirements to register an International Trademark
The requirements for an international trademark are essentially the same as for national filings. In fact, to receive international protection of your brand, you must first go through one of the national Trademark Offices of a Contracting State to the Madrid System, as we will see later on. First though, a quick recap of what can be protected under this system:
- Packaging of goods
- Smells (with specific requirements which shall not be explored here. Find out more here.)
A single international trademark can protect one or a variety of these concepts all at once, as long as these concepts come together to create a distinctive sign that identifies your brand and differentiates it from others.
However, it should be noted that in order to file for international protection, you must be either:
- A citizen of a Contracting State to the Madrid System
- A legal entity resident in a Contracting State
- A legal entity with a real and effective industrial or commercial establishment in a Contracting State
Scope and duration of IP protection
An International Trademark will protect your brand for 10 years. After this 10-year period, you can file for a renewal, details of which will be covered later in the section titled “Follow up: IP Monitoring and TM Renewal”.
The number of countries in which it will be protected will depend entirely on your filing and where you decide to invest resources in brand protection. You can always request to add more countries to the trademark at a later date through a Territorial Expansion Application, so don’t worry if you want to start small and increase protection over time. This will cost 300 Swiss francs (CHF) plus 100 CHF per additional country. There can also be a variable element to this fee. To be sure, check out WIPO’s Fee Calculator.
How can I apply for an International Trademark?
First and foremost, to register for a trademark internationally, you must apply to a national trademark office pertaining to a Contracting State. You do not apply directly to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization).
The registration procedure can be separated into 3 steps:
- Apply to the appropriate National Trademark Office
- Examination of trademark application by the WIPO
- Examination of trademark application by National Trademark Office of each requested country
Step 1: Apply to the appropriate National Trademark Office
The first step of the process entails applying to the right National Trademark Office for you. This is relatively simple to find out through a quick Google search. Below is a list of a few of the national offices with links to their websites.
- UK: IPO (Intellectual Property Office)
- Germany: DPMA (Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt)
- France: INPI (Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle)
- Spain: OEPM (Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas)
- Italy: UIBM (Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi)
In applying to this national office, you will have to fill in the Form MM2. Once filed, the national office will examine the application. If there are no defects to the filing, they will then pass your application to the WIPO for further examination at an international level. This will usually take up to 2 months.
Step 2: Examination of trademark application by the WIPO
Once approved by the national office, the WIPO will then take their turn to examine your application. This examination is mainly to ensure that there are no defects in the application and that you are a legitimate applicant that fulfills the requirements. Upon approval, it will be published in the WIPO’s International Trademark Gazette, and the application will then be forwarded to the national offices of every requested country.
Step 3: Examination of trademark application by the National Trademark Office of each requested country
The international trademark registration procedure essentially has the same effect as if you were to apply to register a national trademark in all of the countries’ requested. Therefore, at this stage, the relevant national trademark offices will examine your application for any faults and, importantly, any potential IP conflicts with already registered trademarks in that country.
Usually, an important part of the national procedure is to publish the application in their national gazette or bulletin and allow a time period for other trademark holders to voice their concerns. If there are any conflicts with pre-registered trademarks, the national office has one year to communicate a notification of provisional refusal – this time period can occasionally be extended to 18 months or longer.
If there is no notification of such a provisional refusal, the trademark is granted and your brand is now officially protected in that country. Congratulations!
Follow up: IP Monitoring and TM renewal
Now that you officially have a registered international trademark, you might feel like the job is over. That is unfortunately not the case. There are many companies and individuals out there who might want to copy your brand and use it for their own personal or commercial gain.
Therefore, to ensure that your hard work has not been for nothing, it is of utmost importance to establish an IP monitoring program. Fortunately, we have partnered with [insert partner’s name here with a link] so that you can rest easy knowing that you are protecting your trademark and your brand image.
It is also essential to remember that your international trademark is only protected for 10 years. Once this time period has elapsed, you need to file for a renewal. The WIPO and the vast majority of national trademark offices do not send out automatic reminders, so you should either carefully manage this or hire a trustworthy IP lawyer to ensure that you don’t wake up to find that you have to start the procedure again.
Now that you know how to apply for an international trademark, protect your brand and monitor your IP, it should be noted that the actual process can take some time. Moreover, if there are mistakes in your application or a notification of provisional refusal is communicated to the WIPO or any national trademark office, that can further complicate matters and result in lengthy delays.
If you would feel safer hiring an attorney to take you through the whole procedure, you can contact us.Read More
By Moeller IP Team.
Dear Clients, Colleagues and Friends,
Moeller IP Advisors is happy to inform you that, for the first time, the Brazilian PTO has published, in its Official Bulletin, designations of International Registrations filed via the Madrid Protocol. This gives you the chance to not only file trademarks in the Brazilian national trademark office, but additionally enable the designation of your International Registrations through the WIPO’s Madrid System.
Sounds great, what’s the issue?
While the designation of a trademark application in Brazil has been made significantly easier, the Brazilian PTO has announced that any oppositions made against your trademark will not be published in the WIPO’s Gazette, but exclusively in the national trademark bulletin. This means that any trademark applications made through the Madrid System, and subject to oppositions by third parties, or an official rejection, will not be notified to the trademark holder via the WIPO Gazette but will have to be identified separately.
What’s our solution?
Moeller IP’s Brazil office will offer free monitoring of your trademark designations through the Madrid Protocol in Brazil and inform you of any activity. Any opposition or rejection against your (or your client’s) brand can additionally be handled by our experts on site.
Please feel free to contact us should you require more information.
Moeller IP AdvisorsRead More
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) published on 7 April 2020 a press release summarizing the main activities of the Organization in 2019.
The highlights of the above-mentioned press release are the following:
With 58,990 applications filed in 2019 via WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) System, China ended the United States (57,840 applications in 2019) reign as the biggest user of the PCT System, a position previously held by the U.S. each year since the PCT began operations in 1978.
International patent applications filed via the PCT grew by 5.2% (265,800 applications) in 2019, while international trademark applications via the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks increased by 5.7% (64,400 applications). Protection for industrial designs via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs saw a 10.4% growth (21,807 designs).
International patent system, Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
In 2019, the top ten users of the PCT were: China (58,990 PCT applications), the U.S (57,840), Japan (52,660), Germany (19,353), Republic of Korea (19,085), France (7,934), United Kingdom (5,786), Switzerland (4,610), Sweden (4,185) and Netherlands (4,011).
Top PCT Applicants:
For the third consecutive year, China-based telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, with 4,411 published PCT applications, was the top corporate filer in 2019. It was followed by:
- Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan (2,661);
- Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea (2,334);
- Qualcomm Inc. of the U.S. (2,127);
- Guang Dong Oppo Mobile Telecommunications of China (1,927);
- Boe Technology Group of China (1,813);
- Ericsson of Sweden (1,698);
- Ping An Technology of China (1,691);
- Robert Bosch of Germany (1,687);
- LG Electronics of the Republic of Korea (1,646);
- LG Chem of the Republic of Korea (1,624);
- Panasonic of Japan (1,567);
- Sony (1,566);
- Hewlett-Packard of U.S. (1,507) and
- Microsoft of U.S. (1,370).
Among fields of technology, computer technology (8.7% of total) accounted for the largest share of published PCT applications, followed by digital communication (7.7%), electrical machinery (7%), medical technology (6.9%) and measurement (4.7%). Among the top 10 technologies, semiconductors (+12%) and computer technology (+11.9%) were the fields with the highest rates of growth in 2019.
International trademark system (Madrid System)
U.S.-based applicants (10,087) filed the largest number of international trademark applications using WIPO’s Madrid System in 2019, followed by those located in Germany (7,700), China (6,339), France (4,437), Switzerland (3,729), United Kingdom (3,460), Japan (3,160), Italy (2,649), Australia (2,094) and Turkey (1,980).
Top Madrid filers:
L’Oréal of France with 189 applications headed the list of top filers, followed by Novartis AG of Switzerland (135), Huawei Technologies of China (131), Nirsan Connect Private Limited of India (124), Rigo Trading of Luxembourg (103), Apple of U.S. (101), Shiseido of Japan (84), BMW of Germany (78), Henkel of Germany (77) and Richter Gedeon of Hungary (69).
The most-specified class in international applications – computers and electronics – accounted for 10.1% of the total, followed by services for business (8.3%) and technological services (6.7%). Among the top 10 classes, pharmaceuticals and other preparations for medical purposes (+12.4%), and services in the area of education, training, entertainment, sporting and cultural activities (+9.6%) saw the fastest growth.
International design system (Hague System)
The number of designs contained in applications filed under the Hague System grew by 10.4% in 2019, reaching a record 21,807 designs.
Germany, with 4,487 designs, continued to be the largest user of the international design system. The Republic of Korea (2,736 designs) surpassed Switzerland (2,178) to become the second largest users of the Hague System in 2019. Italy and the Netherlands ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, with 1,994 and 1,376 designs.
Top Hague filers:
Samsung Electronics of the Republic of Korea with 929 designs in published registrations headed the list of top filers, followed by Fonkel Meubel marketing of the Netherlands (859), LG Electronics of the Republic of Korea (598), Volkswagen of Germany (536) and Procter & Gamble of the U.S. (410).
Designs related to recording and communication equipment (13.6%) accounted for the largest share of total designs in 2019 followed by furnishing (10.1%); means of transport (9.4%); packages and containers (6.4%); and lighting apparatus (6.2%). Among the top 10 classes, recording and communication equipment (+46.4%) and clothing (+35.1) saw the fastest growth.
Source: www.wipo.orgRead More