While there are systems in place that facilitate the registration of a mark internationally with a single filing, there is no global trademark law. Trademarks are protected by the national laws of treaty signatories, although the TRIPS agreement (see below) does provide an attempt of at least minimalist harmonization. The two principal treaties regarding international trademarks are the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Madrid Protocol. Both are discussed briefly below and links are provided for further reading.
Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)
TRIPS is administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO maintains a significant amount of relevant information regarding this agreement on its website and the "gateway" to additional TRIPS information can be found here. TRIPS contains content that is much broader than trademarks, including copyright, patents, industrial design and trade secrets. The following excerpt from the WTO TRIPS website is informative.
A foundational part of the TRIPS agreement is the concept of National Treatment. Essentially this requires that foreign nationals be treated the same as "locals" once goods have entered the country (i.e. national laws apply to foreigners in a manner analogous to how a nation's laws applies to its own citizens). This does not mean that the same laws apply everywhere. That said, TRIPS does make an attempt to provide a minimal set of "common ground rules" by incorporating minimum standards from the Paris Convention and the Berne Convention. The full text of the agreement can be found here in outline format.
The trademark related aspects of TRIPS are contained in Articles 15-24 (which includes the language related to "geographical indications). These Articles can be found in their entirety starting here. The subject matter that is protected is found in Article 15 and contains the following language:
The TRIPS agreement is arguably the most important international agreement dealing with intellectual property (IP) law among the largest nations (and many smaller ones) and is a cornerstone agreement that underpins the global economy. It will likely continue to maintain its prominence as IP represents more and more of the GDP of both the developed and the developing world. Trademark protection outside of the holder's national borders will an remain an important issue on the world economic stage as the Internet increasingly drives the creation of additional global brands.
Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (Madrid Protocol)
This is an international treaty that allows a trademark holder to seek registration in any of the signatory countries by filing a single application. The "international registration" that results provides protection in member countries but each signatory determines how the mark will be protected (i.e. via its own national laws) within the jurisdiction. This treaty is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). A current list of signatories can be found here.
The U.S. became a signatory on November 2, 2003 which provides nationals to submit an international application to the USPTO which it then forwards to to the International Bureau in Geneva, Switzerland. The Lanham Act was amended to implement the Madrid Protocol. This amendment is known as the Madrid Protocol Implementation Act (MPIA). The USPTO summarizes the requirements for filing an international application as follows:
The entire USPTO FAQ regarding the Madrid Protocol can be found here. Prior to the systematic adoption of this protocol it simply was not possible to obtain an "international trademark" with a single filing. The increased pressure for a single filing system was apparently driven by international players insisting on a more uniform approach. In any case, the protocol is indicative of the fact that the world is indeed becoming "flat" and the trend toward globalization shows an increasing ability to overcome any friction that stands in its way.
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