Summary of the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (1891) and the Protocol Relating to that Agreement (1989)

The Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks is governed by two treaties:

  • the Madrid Agreement, concluded in 1891 and revised at Brussels (1900), Washington (1911), The Hague (1925), London (1934), Nice (1957) and Stockholm (1967), and amended in 1979, and
  • the Protocol relating to that Agreement, concluded in 1989, which aims to make the Madrid system more flexible and more compatible with the domestic legislation of certain countries or intergovernmental organizations that had not been able to accede to the Agreement.

States and organizations 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 that has effect in each of the designated Contracting Parties.

Who May Use the System ?

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 of the Contracting Party with which the applicant has the necessary connections (referred to as the office of origin). However, where all the designations are effected under the Protocol (see below), the international application may be based simply on an 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.

The International Application

An application for international registration must designate one or more Contracting Parties in which 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 the Protocol, depending on which treaty is common to the Contracting Parties concerned. If both Contracting Parties are party to the Agreement and the Protocol, the designation will be governed by the Protocol.

International applications can be filed in English, French or Spanish, irrespective of which treaty or treaties govern the application, unless the office of origin restricts that choice to one or two of these languages.

The filing of an international application is subject to the payment of a basic fee (which is reduced to 10 per cent of the prescribed amount for international applications filed by applicants whose country of origin is an 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 replaced by an individual fee, whose amount is determined by the Contracting Party concerned but may not be higher than the amount that would be payable for the registration of a mark, at the national level, with its office.

International Registration

Once the International Bureau receives an international application, it carries out an examination for compliance with the requirements of the Protocol and its Regulations. This examination is restricted to formalities, including the classification and comprehensibility of the list of goods and/or services. If there are no irregularities in the application, the International Bureau records the mark in the International Register, publishes the international registration in the WIPO Gazette of International Marks (hereinafter referred to as “the Gazette”), and notifies it to each designated Contracting Party. Any matter of substance, such as whether the mark qualifies for protection or whether it is in conflict with a mark registered previously in a particular Contracting Party, is determined by that Contracting Party’s trademark office under the applicable domestic legislation. The Gazette is available in electronic form (e-Gazette) on the Madrid system website.

Statement of Grant of Protection or Refusal of Protection

The office of each designated Contracting Party shall issue a statement of grant of protection under Rule 18ter of the Regulations.

However, when designated Contracting Parties 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 an indication of the grounds on which it is based, must be communicated to the International Bureau, normally within 12 months from the date of 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. That Contracting Party may also declare that a refusal based on an opposition may be communicated to the International Bureau even after the 18-month time limit.

The refusal is communicated to the holder of the registration or the holder’s representative before the International Bureau, 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 by the competent administration and/or court of the Contracting Party concerned and the holder, without the involvement of the International Bureau. The final decision concerning the refusal must, however, be communicated to the International Bureau, which records and publishes it.

Effects of an International Registration

The effects of an international registration in each designated Contracting Party are, 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 is, from the date of the international registration, the same as if it had been registered by the office of that Contracting Party.

An international registration is effective for 10 years. It may be renewed for further periods of 10 years on payment of the prescribed fees.

Protection may be limited with regard to some or all of the goods or services or may be renounced with regard to some only 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 of the goods or services indicated.

Advantages of the Madrid System

The Madrid system offers several advantages for trademark owners. Instead of filing a separate national application in each country of interest, in several different languages, in accordance with different national or regional 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 (English, French or Spanish) and paying one set of fees.

Similar advantages exist for maintaining and renewing a registration. Likewise, if the international registration is assigned to a third party, or is otherwise changed, such as a change in name and/or address, this may be recorded with effect for all designated Contracting Parties by means of a single procedural step.

To facilitate the work of the users of the Madrid system, the International Bureau publishes a Guide to the International Registration of Marks under the Madrid Agreement and the Madrid Protocol.

The Madrid Agreement and Protocol are open to any State party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). The two treaties are parallel and independent, and States may adhere to either or both of them. In addition, an intergovernmental organization that 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.