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How to Protect a Trademark?

Trademarks are generally protected through registration, following an application filed with the national or regional intellectual property (IP) office. In some countries, trademark rights are also available through use.

(Image: Getty Images/300_librarians)

Requirements for protection

In order to be protected as a trademark, a sign should be distinctive: that is, capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one business from those of other competitors.

Costs of protecting a trademark

The costs of trademark protection vary significantly from country to country and may include:

  • Application/registration fee (to be paid to the IP office). Fees vary depending on where you want to protect your mark and how many classes of goods and services are covered.
  • Costs associated with the services of a trademark agent. This may be a requirement of the IP office.
  • Payment of renewal fees. These are fees to maintain the exclusive right over a trademark usually paid on a ten-year basis.

The relevant national or regional IP office will be able to give you details on their fee structure. Consult our list of national and regional IP offices.

The trademark registration process

A trademark application has to be filed (and paid for) in a national or regional trademark office. Following filing, the office will then examine the application.

The steps (and their order) taken by the office to register a trademark vary from country to country but, broadly speaking, follow a similar pattern.

1. Application

2. Examination

3. Publication

4. Opposition

5. Registration

Obtaining protection abroad

Trademarks are territorial rights – they are only protected in the countries or regions where they are registered.

National route

Apply to the trademark office of each country in which you are seeking protection by filing an application in the required language and paying the required fees.

• A country may require you to use the services of a locally-based trademark agent.
• Some countries do not have a national system and use a regional system instead.

Regional route

If you want protection in countries that are members of a regional trademark system, you may apply for registration, with effect in the territories of all member countries, by filing an application with the relevant regional office.

International route

WIPO's Madrid System is a convenient and cost-effective solution for registering and managing trademarks worldwide. File a single international trademark application and pay one set of fees to apply for protection in up to 130 countries. Modify, renew or expand your global trademark portfolio through one centralized system.