Tim Lince

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has released its latest filing figures report for international trademark applications. The data reveals a healthy 7.2% growth in 2016, with a significant rise in Chinese applicants using the system. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe this week set in process the ratification of the Madrid Protocol – two years after WIPO announced it joined.

The latest figures from WIPO reveal that there were 52,550 international trademark applications filed in 2016, with the 7.2% growth continuing the multi-year trend of increased Madrid System use. US applicants were the largest filers of international marks (7,741 in total), closely followed by those from Germany (7,551), France (4,132) and China (3,200). There was significant growth in the number of Chinese applicants last year (+69% year-on-year), with further rises from users originating in Russia (+33%) and Italy (14%) too.

Beyond countries of origin, the leading corporate filers stretch across an array of industries – although there’s a clear trend of international trademark use by companies based in Europe.

2016 Ranking

Applicant name

Origin

2016 applications

YOY change

1

L’Oréal

France

150

+20

2

Glaxo Group

UK

141

+73

3

BMW

Germany

117

+77

4

Lidl

Germany

112

-31

5

Novartis

Switzerland

94

-100

6

Philips Electronics

Netherlands

85

-38

7

Boehringer Ingelheim

Germany

83

-7

8

Biofarma

France

75

-6

9

Daimler

Germany

70

-33

10

 Nestlé

Switzerland

67

+15

11

August Storck

Germany

62

+17

12

Brillux

Germany

61

+45

13

Apple

USA

60

-26

14

Abercrombie & Fitch

Switzerland

57

+20

15

Daiichi Sankyo

Japan

56

+36

In terms of designation, China was once again the most designated country (22,314), followed by the EU (21,526), the US (20,979), Russia (14,604), Japan (14,522), Switzerland (13,984) and Australia (12,967). China has been the top designated country since 2006, although its lead has now been cut to less than a thousand.

Interestingly, Zimbabwe had 741 designations in 2016 despite the legal uncertainty surrounding international trademarks in that jurisdiction. Zimbabwe was announced as the 94th member of the Madrid System in December 2014, but it is understood that its government has not sufficiently modified its laws to ensure designations are processed. However, that may be set to change. It has been reported by local press in the African nation that this issue has now moved up the legislative agenda, with the government setting in motion the process of ratification of the Protocol.

In explaining the importance of the issue this week, Zimbabwe’s vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa acknowledged that “the full operationalisation of the Madrid Protocol has been hampered by the absence of implementing regulations”, further adding: “As it stands, all the trademarks that have so far been filed through the system are yet to be processed because of the absence of the implementing regulations to guide the department on what needs to be done. The promulgation of these regulations is, therefore, an issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to give the department the relevant powers and directions on how to handle the trademark applications coming through the Madrid System.”

This will no doubt come as a relief to both WIPO and the over 700 Madrid System users that designated Zimbabwe last year. Trust in the enforceability of marks filed through the Madrid System is a key requirement that WIPO has to maintain – and ensuring that every one of the 98 members has sufficiently implemented it should be a priority.

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