12 May 2017

Miscellaneous musings (on recent IP news)

Madrid Protocol

I'll start my musings on Madrid (the Madrid Protocol) where Hong Kong is beginning steps to become available for International trademarks, although this is not likely until 2019 at the earliest.

Under Article 3bis of the Madrid Protocol, "The protection resulting from the international registration shall extend to any Contracting Party only at the request of the person who files the international application or who is the holder of the international registration. However, no such request can be made with respect to the Contracting Party whose Office is the Office of origin."

This is interpreted so that Hong Kong applicants will not be able to designate (mainland) China and vice-versa. As many will know, Hong Kong is not a sovereign state and is a Special Administrative Region of China. As such, any Madrid membership will be made by China on its behalf.

Notwithstanding this, the Netherlands has membership of the Madrid Protocol and has extended this to Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (sometimes referred to as the BES Islands or the Caribbean Netherlands). Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are special municipalities of the Netherlands. There are 817 live International Registrations which designate Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba and where Benelux is the Office of origin (that's not to say all applicants are from the Netherlands, some are from Belgium or Luxembourg).

From the above, it seems a Contracting Party can have different Office of origins and is not necessarily caught by an Article 3bis restriction.

Anyway, it seems Hong Kong and (mainland) China will look to come to another arrangement outside of the Madrid Protocol.

Eurasian Trademark

Another IP system we may need to become aware of is through the Eurasian Trademark system. This may be with us in 2018. It will cover Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

It seems it will be a mix between how the International and EU trademark systems work. There will be no need for a base application/registration, but applications can be filed with anyone of the five national IP Offices. Although it will be a unitary right across all countries, it will be examined by each national IP Office separately. In the event of refusal, this can be argued nationally. A final refusal in any country will result in refusal of the Eurasian trademark, but conversion/transformation into national applications in the non-refused countries appears to be possible.

It's not clear if this system will look to link to the International trademark system. I'm not sure I can envisage it being used much by Western trademark owners when all member countries are members of the Madrid Protocol anyway (Russia and Kazakhstan being particularly cheap under Madrid). However, it may be useful for local portfolios (think, in particular, marks in Cyrillic script) as there is no requirement to get an unnecessary base registration (with the 'Central Attack' fears that can pose). Any attractiveness to Western trademark owners may come down to costs.


Remaining in the Eurasian region and Russia will be joining the Hague System for Designs. They will join other regional countries as members: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. Accession is anticipated for later this year and will be for the Geneva Act only.

The UK is also likely to accede to the Geneva Act of the Hague System in early 2018. This will be welcomed, particularly if UK applicants shall no longer have easy direct access to the Registered Community Design system when 'Brexit' happens.

Representation at the EUIPO

Whether UK practitioners will still be able to work directly with the EUIPO is something that is very much on the radar of British IP professionals that undertake a lot of EU work. There has been talk of Brits opting into "EU citizenship" and this may present an opportunity, although a) anyone remaining in the UK would still not be resident in the EU/EEA and b) this is an idea that might not get any further than being just an idea. Nonetheless, it could be an interesting angle that may not currently be being looked at for British professionals looking to retain representation rights.

Series marks 

Remaining in the UK and the UKIPO has recently issued guidance on series marks. Although not exclusively available in the UK, they are a bit of an alien concept to some trademark professionals in other countries. A Series of trademarks is a number of marks with very small differences. Any differences between the marks must not substantially change how they look, sound or alter their meanings. As a common example, a black and white version of a trademark and a colour version of a trademark can often be included in the same application (and at no extra cost).

The IPO's guidance reflects a strict approach for marks to form a series.

Enjoy your weekends readers!