Trade marks are 'signs' which are capable of distinguishing particular goods or services of one business from those of another. The term 'sign' is the legal term that refers to the subject of a trade mark application.
A trade mark can consist of words (including personal names), slogans, designs, letters, numbers, domain names, the shape of goods or their packaging, sounds, smells, colours, gestures and moving digital images.
A trade mark helps customers distinguish between products and protects the owner's investment and reputation. It can be a valuable tool in establishing a 'brand' and be a focal point for building brand loyalty.
UK registered marks are enforceable throughout the UK and the Isle of Man. The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) administers UK registered marks.
The EU trade mark (EUTM) provides a single trade mark registration covering the whole of the EU. EUTMs have the same effect in each member country of the EU as national marks registered there. An EUTM therefore gives the owner the right to object to infringement throughout the EU (as of the UK's exit from the EU, however, an EUTM will no longer be enforceable in the UK). In addition, the owner may be entitled to apply for EU-wide relief, such as a pan-European injunction, in respect of all infringing acts in the EU, instead of having to pursue several sets of court proceedings in different member states. The EU Intellectual Property Office administers EUTMs.
A trade mark owner can also register their mark outside the UK or EU under an international agreement, the Madrid Protocol. Marks registered under the Protocol are known as 'international' marks. Like the EUTM, an international registration under the Protocol offers the opportunity to obtain trade mark protection in more than one country using one application. The application must designate the countries in which protection for the mark is sought and, once registered, the international mark has the same effect in each designated country as a national mark of that country. The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) administers international applications.
Before you can file an international application, you need to have already registered, or have filed an application, in your 'home' intellectual property office. This registration or application is known as the basic mark. You then need to submit your international application through this same IP Office, which will certify and forward it to WIPO. So, you can apply to the IPO for a UK registered mark and submit an international application to the IPO at the same time. Or, you can apply to the EUIPO for an EUTM and submit an international application to the EUIPO at the same time.
However, international applications may only be made by applicants who are nationals of, domiciled in, or have a real and effective establishment in, a country which is a signatory to the Protocol and which is the country where their basic mark registration or application is made. This means that, although, e.g., anyone may apply for an EUTM, it may only be used as the basic mark if the applicant is a national of, domiciled in, or has a real and effective establishment in, one of the EU member states.