Madrid system for international registration of marks (Madrid Protocol)

The Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks -- the Madrid Protocol -- was adopted in Spain's capital on June 27, 1989, and entered into force on December 1, 1995. The protocol is one of two treaties comprising the Madrid System for international registration of trademarks. The first treaty, the 1891 Madrid Agreement, provides for the registration of trademarks in several countries through the filing of one international trademark registration with WIPO in Geneva.

The Madrid Protocol, developed because some countries had problems with the operation of the Madrid Agreement, is seen as an improvement to the system for international registration of trademarks. As a result, more and more trademark owners are using the Madrid Protocol every year to protect their trademarks in foreign countries. As of September 9, 2009, there were 79 contracting parties to the Madrid Protocol.

The Madrid Protocol is a filing treaty and not a substantive harmonization treaty. It provides a cost-effective and efficient way for trademark holders -- individuals and businesses -- to ensure protection for their marks in multiple countries through the filing of one application with a single office, in one language, with one set of fees, in one currency. Moreover, no local agent is needed to file the application.

An application for international registration has the same effect as a national application for registration of the mark in each of the countries designated by the applicant. Once the trademark office in a designated country grants protection, the mark is protected just as if that office had registered it.

The Madrid Protocol also simplifies the subsequent management of the mark, since a simple, single procedural step serves to record subsequent changes in ownership or in the name or address of the holder with WIPO's International Bureau.

Before the protocol was enacted, burdensome administrative requirements for the normal transfer of business assets often made it difficult for trademark owners to carry out valid assignments of their marks internationally. The protocol allows the holder of an international registration to file a single request with a single payment, in order to record the assignment of a trademark with all the member countries. Registration renewal also involves a simple, single procedural step. International registration lasts 10 years, with 10-year renewal periods.

Trademark owners may designate additional countries if they decide to seek protection in more member countries or if new countries accede to the protocol.

If the basic application -- or registration upon which the international registration is based -- is cancelled for any reason in the first five years, the Madrid Protocol gives the holder of the international registration the opportunity to transform the international registration into a series of national applications in each designated country. This series of applications keeps the priority date of the original international registration in each country.

Learn more about the Madrid Protocol here.