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India Accedes to the Madrid Protocol


In a move to strengthen intellectual property rights, the Indian government announced earlier this month the country’s accession to the Madrid Protocol governing the international registration of trademarks. This move marks a much-needed initiative to register Indian trademarks in other countries, as the Indian trademark registration system had no provisions…


In a move to strengthen intellectual property rights, the Indian government announced earlier this month the country’s accession to the Madrid Protocol governing the international registration of trademarks. This move marks a much-needed initiative to register Indian trademarks in other countries, as the Indian trademark registration system had no provisions for international registration. India has been slower than most competitive economies to accede to the system, even though it set the ball rolling on the lengthy application procedure two years ago.

The Madrid Protocol

This low-cost method of registering trademarks administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization has the added advantage of registering a single trademark in multiple countries through a single, efficient application. This system greatly facilitates the changing, maintaining and renewing of the registration. Furthermore, the agreement specifies that “if the trademark office of a designated country does not refuse protection within a specified period, the protection of the mark is the same as if it had been registered by that office.”1

The Madrid System consists of the Protocol, which came into force in 1996, and the much older Madrid Agreement of 1891. Filed under the agreement is the trademark of Swiss watch-maker Longines, the longest-standing international trademark registration still in existence. A country may become a party to either the Protocol or the Agreement or both. The Madrid system has 80 members, including the US, UK, Japan, and the countries of the European Union. China has been a member since 1989 and in recent years has become an important member, with over 40% of international applications received in 2006 designating China as one of the countries where the trademark would be registered.2

The Indian Case

India’s success in the technology sector over the past decade has prompted it to strengthen protection of intellectual property rights. The Trade Marks Act of 1999 was one such important legislation, now being amended to include membership in the Madrid protocol. Given the rise of technology and export-oriented Indian firms, which stand to benefit the most, this has been a logical response. For multi-nationals, international trademark filing is a key step in protecting and promoting their trademark internationally. For smaller and upcoming firms, the convenience and affordability offered by the Madrid system facilitates the registration process. More international credibility and confidence will be added to the Indian trademark system, as foreign companies too can better protect their trademarks in a country where such infringement occurs frequently.

It will be interesting to see how India’s accession to the Protocol impacts the large pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical companies have consistently been big users of this trademark registration process in Europe and America. Industry giants like Novartis and Merck rank among the top users of the system. According to a 2005 Best Practices study on trademarks, two out of every three American biotechnology or pharmaceutical firms planned to use the Madrid Protocol.3
 
While India’s accession to the Madrid Protocol makes international trademark registration a simpler and cost-effective process, it also requires increased investment in infrastructure and personnel in the Indian Trademark Offices, driving up the cost for domestic trademark registration.4 Other general drawbacks include the inability to differentiate the scope of the brand protection from market to market and the adverse implications of the cancellation or refusal of the application.

There are clear benefits of being part of a system that includes many economically competitive countries, and trade partners. In October last year, WIPO registered the 900,000th trademark under the system. Even though there are limitations, it is better to be on the inside of such an agreement than to stay out.

Source: www.asiaecon.org |

 

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