Brand protection:
Do it once Do it right

Brands can be protected in almost all countries. The author Chris Zierhut explains everything related to national and international trademark protection, what can be protected, how to monitor and defend brands.

I. What can be protected?

Not only words or images can be protected, but also letters, numbers, advertising slogans, three-dimensional shapes, smells, melodies and color marks.



The most common word markers are registered, such as “Persil”, “GMAIL” or “Microsoft”. Personal or company names can also be protected, eg “Siemens”, “Marlene Dietrich”.


Even letter combinations can be protected as word marks, such as the letter sequence “BMW” for motor vehicles, “IBM” for computers or “FAEMA” for coffee machines.Individual letters can also be protected as trademarks, eg C or Z !!, if the graphic design goes beyond the “customary advertising standard”.

figurative marks

Protective as a brand are two-dimensional images and illustrations, eg the exclamation mark of JOOP ! on jeans.


Also numerals in numbers or advertised, such as “QUATTRO”, “DREIER” for motor vehicles, “4711” for perfume, are protectable.

Number Combinations

Letter-number combinations such as “@ ON2” for advertising services are protected as a trademark.

Word sequences (slogans)

Protective are also slogans such as “stinginess is cool” u. “I’m not stupid” for consumer electronics, “not always, but more and more” for beer, or the slogan “radio from here, radio like us” .

Word / Image Marks

It is also possible to protect trademarks with word and image components, such as the Bayer Cross.

Color Marks

The color “Lila” for Milka brand chocolate was considered as eligible for protection. For yellow pages the yellow pages were considered to be protective. Normally, individual colors are not considered protectable, as they should be freely usable by anyone.
Protective is also the concrete composition of several colors. The protectability of the colored VISA logo even without the name “VISA” was affirmed, for example, for “finance”.

Three-Dimensional Shapes

Protective are three-dimensional forms, as far as they have a certain originality. Three-dimensional shapes, which have only generally common and simplest design or whose forms are purely technical, are not protected as a trademark. For example, the illustration of the Lego stone or the “Granini bottle” were judged to be protectable due to their original bulbous design.

Melodies and Sound Sequences

Protective tunes are also considered to be tunes, such as the theme tunes of broadcasters or commercials such as “Nothing is impossible – TOYOTA” .


Odors can also be protected as trademarks if they can be represented graphically or by explanation. For example, the odor of perfumed tissue or perfume may be trademarkable.
< The brand gives the holder the opportunity to make the mark the subject of a license and thus to grant third parties the use of the mark against payment of a license fee .>

II. What conditions are there?

First of all, it should be carefully examined whether the chosen brand is protectable .

With regard to the ability to protect, the responsible trade mark office examines whether the trademark application conflicts with statutory grounds for refusal. In particular, the Office examines the need for free-standing, ie whether the mark is directly descriptive of the goods or services claimed.

In practice, the question of distinctiveness and the examination of whether a descriptive statement requiring disclosure is of the greatest importance.

In doing so, the mark must always be assessed with regard to the goods or services designated by the applicant for identification.

When selecting the name to protect, care must be taken as well as in the search for possible collisions.The final decision is whether and in what form trademark protection can be obtained.

Example: The term ‘apple’ is not distinctive for the product ‘fruit’ and is therefore not eligible for protection since it is not considered by the market to be distinctive of the product in question and therefore not as an indication of a particular company.

In rare cases, trademark protection comes about without prior registration.

However, this only happens if a sign has gained market validity as a trademark within the relevant public. Traffic validity means that a sign is due to extensive

Is so well-known to the public involved that the traffic in the sign is indicative of a particular company or manufacturer.

For example, the Mc Donald’s brand would enjoy brand protection even without being registered in the register as a traffic-fined brand.

In addition, prior to filing a trademark, a search should be carried out for older identical or confusingly similar trademarks and company names. This prevents that older rights are not violated and the newly registered trademark must be deleted.

III. Classification according to goods and / or services

A trademark is always registered for certain goods and / or services. Decisive is the official classification according to the International Classification of Nice (NCL). This contains all conceivable goods and services in 45 classes.
< The correct allocation of each individual product or service requires some experience and should, in case of doubt, be left to an experienced lawyer>

The terms of goods and services listed in the classification are generic terms that refer to the fields to which the goods or services are generally assigned. The official classification is therefore only a coarse division, which requires supplementation in individual cases. This is particularly important because the list of goods and services determines the scope of protection of the brand.

The preparation of the goods and services directory requires great care:

Once the filing of a trade mark with a specific directory has been filed once with the Trademark Office, the list can subsequently only be limited but can no longer be extended.

If a product or service has not been clearly and correctly classified using the classification, the filing date relevant to the seniority of the trade mark may be lost as the trade mark must be re-registered.

With regard to an international registration, the list of goods and services of the basic brand should already be prepared with such care that the objections of the foreign trademark offices are avoided as far as possible.

It is not possible to make a generally binding statement as to whether the list of goods and services should be formulated more abstractly or specifically, but depends individually on the brand and the search results.

IV. Trademark protection abroad

§ International Registration (WIPO)

Example: A holder of a German trademark would like to extend its protection to Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Poland. In this case, an application for international registration will be filed with WIPO in Geneva on the basis of the German mark (basic mark).

In order to enable applicants to register trademarks faster and more cheaply, a large number of countries, including most of the countries of Western and Eastern Europe, have become a special association for the international registration of trademarks (IR trademarks), the so-called Madrid Agreement about the international registration of trademarks and the Protocol of the Madrid Agreement.

With the IR brand, therefore, inexpensive (from € 499 incl. 19% VAT plus official fees) can be achieved at the same time with a single application for trademark protection in many countries.

These agreements make it possible to file a single application for international trademark registration with the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) in Geneva, instead of a large number of national filing procedures. The prerequisite for the application for international registration is that the applicant has a so-called basic mark in a Contracting State.

The audit is the same as for individual national trademark applications. Accordingly, in each claimed country, contradictions based on prior rights can be raised. In each country, the respective trademark office can check the brand for absolute grounds for refusal.

The protection period is 10 years and can then be extended as often as desired.

List of all 80 members of the Madrid Agreement and Protocol:

§ European Community Trade Mark

The Community trade mark provides protection in all EU Member States.

If an EU trade mark is already registered, which was previously registered as a national trade mark in one of the Member States, the EU trade mark may claim the date of protection of the earlier national trade mark, even if the filing date was many years ago. This even applies to a former IR brand. It is spoken here of a claim of “seniority”. Not to be confused with claiming the “priority”, which is only possible with brands within six months.

5 good reasons for the EU brand:

  1. Uniform legal protection

There is only one right applicable to the EU trade mark throughout the EU and that right gives it strong and unique protection. Infringement claims can be brought before the EU trademark courts.These judgments apply throughout the European Union.

  1. Lower costs

Significantly lower costs are incurred than single declarations in each Member State.

  1. Possibility to claim the benefit of earlier national rights

The EU trademark is designed to complement national protection systems. If an applicant or holder of an EU trade mark already owns an identical earlier national trade mark for the same goods and services, he may claim seniority.

  1. Unproblematic obligation to use

Actual and serious use in only one Member State is enough to maintain the EU mark in all countries of the European Union.

  1. An older law that is enforceable in all countries of the European Union

The EU trade mark can be an older law that can be upheld by any younger trade mark in each Member State. So you can challenge the EU mark with younger national brands.

Comparison of Community Trade Mark ~ IR mark

advantages disadvantage
IR Trademark (Madrid Agreement) International registration under the Madrid Trademark Agreement of WIPO Inexpensive, uniformly low fees for all countries.Refusal in one country is harmless to the rest of the world. Prerequisite: Registered home stamp.The brand is linked to the home brand’s inventory for 5 years. If the home brand is removed, the IR mark is deleted with all countries.

In each chosen country the brand must be used

IR mark (protocol) protocol to the agreement A registered basic mark is not required. Registration of the basic mark is sufficient.If the basic mark is abolished, the designated countries can be converted into national trademarks. Countries require individual fees, the amount of which variesIn each chosen country the brand must be used
EU trademark The EU brand only needs to be used in a larger EU countryIn case of contradictions the loser bears all costs (max 600 EUR per opposition) If the application for a prior right in one Member State is rejected, the entire EU trade mark is rejected. It is not possible to withdraw a single country from the application. A search in all Member States before registration is therefore definitely recommended for distinctive brands.(The conversion into national trade mark applications is possible as a priority , but causes registration fees for each individual Member State in which the trade mark is to be registered.)

§ International Direct Registration

For countries that are not contracting parties to the Madrid Agreement or Protocol, applications will be filed directly with the foreign trade mark authorities.

Direct registration with foreign trade mark offices is only chosen if protection by the “IR mark” or “EU Community trade mark” listed above is not achievable in the countries concerned, because individual applications are more complex in foreign countries.

V. Brand monitoring

You snooze – you lose

Brand Monitoring – The cost-effective method of brand defense: 

It is necessary to detect colliding competitor applications much earlier.

You will gain a decisive advantage in order to be able to initiate remedies on time and thus avoid high legal costs.

Because a conflicting trademark registration can be attacked after the expiry of the opposition period only in a much more costly civil court proceedings.

If similar trademarks are registered due to a lack of trademark monitoring, this leads to a weakening of the distinctive character, up to the loss of the trademark right.Surveillance provides the brand owner with the security of being notified of identical or similar newly registered trademarks.

The lawyer speaks here of dilution.

This prevents the worldwide possible brand monitoring . The monitoring of trademarks and trademarks worldwide is possible for individual countries, all countries and / or certain groups of countries at fixed prices. For Germany, we offer a special tariff , which also includes the EU brands and the international brands that enjoy protection in Germany.

Competitor monitoring makes it possible to identify product strategies of your competitors much earlier. We can monitor your competitors for registration and registration of patents, utility models, and trademarks.

Our monitoring tools answer the following questions:

  • Who uses your brand?
  • Are identifiable brands applied or registered?
  • What are competitors planning?

Z I E R H U T * I P *

Experts for Global Brand Protection

With unparalleled experience we defend the valueable brands of our clients on all marketplaces worldwide using a combination of our very efficient algorithms that identify IP infringements, an unique brand protection strategy, our close collaboration with customs, investigating authorities and the state task forces and our network of local agents.