Tips for developing an efficient worldwide trademark application filing strategy

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So you’re launching a new product line worldwide. Or maybe you’re rebranding a division of your global business. Or perhaps you’ve recently conducted an audit of your trademark portfolio and noticed several gaps in coverage.

Regardless, you’re ready to file new trademark applications around the world ‒ and we’re sure you want to make these filings as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

One way to keep costs down is to take advantage of trademark application filing systems that cover multiple jurisdictions. These systems allow you to register a trademark in more than one country by filing only a single application.

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The Impact on Brands when Trademarks are Used in Military Strategy

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Western companies with trademark rights in Russia are feeling the ripple effects of the Ukrainian conflict.  In response to the economic sanctions and boycotts imposed by the U.S. and other Western countries, Russia has threatened to suspend the intellectual property rights of companies that have ceased operations in Russia.  Additionally, there has recently been an increase in bad faith trademark filings for various brands across a wide range of industries from Chanel to Audi.  Moreover, it appears that Russian courts may allow the infringement and misappropriation of trademarks owned by Western companies in light of a recent decision involving the character Peppa Pig, where the court cited sanctions as a basis for refusing to recognize the Western-based company’s intellectual property rights in the popular cartoon character.

Even those businesses with longstanding ties within Russia don’t appear to be safe.  Certain companies closing locations in the country in response to the conflict in Ukraine are finding that third parties are filing trademark applications for blatant replicas of their brands.  Even more disturbing is that should the Russian government decide to remove trademark protections for Western companies altogether, then a third party could step in and offer goods and services under identical marks.  Depending upon how things play out in Russia, Western brand owners are in serious danger of losing their intellectual property investments in the country.  Exacerbating the problem for these brands is that finding local counsel willing to assist them may be extremely difficult.  Fear for personal safety and the threat of retribution may encourage many trademark attorneys in Russia to steer clear of matters involving companies from “unfriendly” countries.

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Rebranding Roadmap – A Checklist for Changing Brand Names and Company Names

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So you’re thinking about changing your company name, brand, or both.  We usually like to allow at least a few months to identify the new name and initiate protection.  To help you plan, here’s a high-level overview of significant steps in the process.  Happy rebranding!

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Don’t Miss Notices from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office regarding Madrid Protocol Trademark Applications

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Wondering why you haven’t received any updates on the progress of your client’s Madrid Protocol application designating Canada?  After reading that question, are you wondering what on earth a Madrid Protocol application is?

Let’s take a step back.  The Madrid system is a mechanism that facilitates the registration of trademarks in multiple jurisdictions around the world.  One way to file trademark applications in multiple jurisdictions is to engage local counsel in each jurisdiction of interest and work with counsel to file individual applications.  By using the Madrid system, however, a trademark owner can file a single international trademark application with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and designate one or more jurisdictions based on just this one application.

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Refresh Your Logo While Keeping Your Old U.S. Trademark Registration

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We are tickled pink when we get to work with trademark registrations that issued before we were born. ‎(We won’t say when that was.) It’s nifty to be the steward of a trademark that has stood the test of time and that may endure long after we’ve headed off to the Great Principal Register in the Sky (no Supplemental Register for us, no sirree).

But what if your old, venerable logo is due for some sprucing up? ‎Please don’t immediately assume that a logo refresh means that you will need to start over with a new trademark application and allow your old logo registration to lapse. You may be able to amend your national U.S. trademark registration to cover the most current version of your logo, so long as the new logo isn’t a “material alteration” of the original registered logo. This allows you to preserve your original priority date that is associated with your old registration! (Note: this won’t work for registrations obtained in the USA via the Madrid Protocol. Sorry.)

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Mindful Management of Marks and Money (Or, Spring Cleaning: Do You Really Need to Renew That Trademark Registration?)

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This post is for those who gain pleasure from tidying up.  It’s springtime here in DC, so let’s roll up our sleeves and declutter!  Your trademark portfolio, that is.  You’ll gain a sense of accomplishment AND you can humble-brag about your magical money-saving skills.

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To Claim or Not to Claim … Seniority (Guest Post from EU Firm Cleveland Scott York)

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Businesses operating in the European Union may be familiar with the concept of “seniority.”  By claiming seniority, an owner of an EU trademark registration may be able to claim prior rights based on existing national trademark registrations in EU member countries.  To illustrate when a business might claim seniority, take the following example:

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Tricks to Transferring Trademarks

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A trademark assignment is the transfer of ownership of a mark.  This usually entails having the owner transfer all its rights, title and interest in a given mark to a third party.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?  Well, imagine you’re not just assigning one trademark to a third party – instead you’re transferring an entire portfolio containing hundreds of marks in dozens of countries.  Generally, this transfer of rights must be documented – or recorded – with the trademark office in every jurisdiction where marks have been assigned.  Otherwise, the outdated Trademark Office records relating to the ownership of a mark could cause issues, like blocking new applications filed in the new owner’s name.  The requirements for assigning trademarks and recording this transfer of rights often vary by jurisdiction, so handling the transfer of a global trademark portfolio can become a major undertaking.

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Trademark Traps for the Unwary, Part 1: Black-and-White Registrations Abroad are a Gray Area

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US trademark aficionados know that US registrations depicting logos in black and white allow the trademark owner to display the registered mark in any color.  Filing in black and white is often a good way to achieve broader protection in the States, and it helps avoid your having to file a new application if you change the color of your logo in the future.  The next time you want to protect your logo outside the USA, however, pause before you send that email to local counsel or submit your Madrid Protocol application depicting the logo in black and white.  It’s not safe to assume that a black-and-white registration outside the USA confers “universal” protection for a mark displayed in any color.

To elaborate:  counsel in a number of jurisdictions have informed us that black-and-white registrations may not protect marks displayed in any color.  We’ve heard this from the EU, Kazakhstan, and Thailand, among other places – though you will of course want to check this with your own local counsel, since this is a fact-specific issue.  Worse yet, black-and-white registrations outside the USA may be subject to attack on non-use grounds if the trademark isn’t used in black and white.  (How often does that happen?!)

We haven’t run across a treatise or other resource that drills down to this level of trademark nerddom, so this might be a good topic to add to the next edition of the Country Guides (accessible to members of the International Trademark Association).  In the meantime – now you’re equipped to ask some more pre-filing questions, to help ensure that your future logo applications will achieve maximum protection.

Marco v. Polo: Navigating Around “Likelihood of Confusion” Refusals

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There are refusals, and then there are refusals, and a “likelihood of confusion” refusal (also called a “Section 2(d)” refusal in the US) is certainly of the latter variety.  But most times you don’t need to be an expert navigator to traverse these choppy waters and successfully sail your application through to registration.  All it takes is a little bit of “pathfinding” (investigating) on your part, and “charting a course” (developing a strategic approach) for moving forward.

And then I ran out of explorer metaphors.

As consolation, here are some thoughts about how to approach and respond to these kinds of refusals, which are among the most daunting.  Some, but not all, of the tips below apply equally to “likelihood of confusion” refusals encountered in the USA and in trademark offices abroad.

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