18 December, 2008

Singapore Treaty on Trade Marks to enter into force in March 2009

According to a WIPO press release, the Singapore Treaty on Trade Marks will come into force on 16th March 2009 following ratification by Australia on 16th December 2008. Australia becomes the tenth country to ratify the treaty to make it operational.

The release indicates that WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry, who coincidentally is Australian, welcomed this development saying, “the entry into force of the Singapore Treaty was good news for trademark owners around the world as it opened the way for the branded goods industry to register and manage trademark rights cost-effectively and efficiently.”

The Singapore Treaty was adopted by WIPO member states in Singapore in March 2006. The Treaty standardizes procedural aspects of trademark registration and licensing and enables owners of trademarks and national trademark authorities to take advantage of efficiencies in using modern communications technologies to process and manage evolving trademark rights.

Kenya signed the Treaty on 28th March 2006, but has not ratified it.

Key features of the treaty are that
· It recognises all types of marks, including non-traditional visible marks, such as holograms, three-dimensional marks, colour, position and movement marks, and non-visible marks, such as sound, olfactory or taste and feel marks. However the Treaty does not impose any obligations on Contracting Parties to (i) register new types of marks, or (ii) implement electronic filing systems or other automation systems
· It leaves Contracting Parties the freedom to choose the form and means of transmittal of communications and whether they accept communications on paper, communications in electronic form or any other form of communication. This has consequences on formal requirements for applications and requests, such as the signature on communications with the Office.
· It does not require authentication, certification or attestation of any signature on paper communications. However, Contracting Parties are free to determine whether and how they wish to implement a system of authentication of electronic communications.
· It provides for relief measures when an applicant or a holder has missed a time limit in an action for a procedure before the Office. Contracting Parties are required to make available, at their choice, at least the following relief measures: (1) extension of the time limit, (2) continued processing and (3) reinstatement of rights if the failure to meet the time limit was unintentional or occurred in spite of due care required by the circumstances.
· It provides for recording of trademark licenses, and establishes maximum requirements for the requests for recordal, amendment or cancellation of the recordal of a license.
· It creates an Assembly of the Contracting Parties.
· It introduces a degree of flexibility for the definition of details concerning administrative procedures to be implemented by national trade mark offices where it is anticipated that future developments in trade mark registration procedures and practice will warrant the amendments of those details.
· It has provisions for assisting developing and least developed countries (LDCs) with technical and technological support to enable them to take full advantage of the provisions of the Treaty.
AS of now no developing country or LDC has ratified the treaty, hopefully they will do so in the near future and take advantage of the technical and technological support envisaged in the treaty in order to modernise their trade mark registries, especially in terms of eletronic communication.

Summary of the treaty is available here.
The full treaty is available here

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