Well-known marks enjoy in most countries protection against signs which are considered a reproduction, imitation or translation of that mark provided that they are likely to cause confusion in the relevant sector of the public.
Well-known marks are usually protected, irrespective of whether they are registered or not, in respect of goods and services which are identical with, or similar to, those for which they have gained their reputation. In many countries, they are also, under certain conditions protected for dissimilar goods and services. It should be noted that, while there is no commonly agreed detailed definition of what constitutes a well-known mark, countries may take advantage of the WIPO Joint Recommendation Concerning Provisions on the Protection of Well-Known Marks.
International framework of well-known marks protection
Many countries protect well-known marks in accordance with their international obligations under:
- Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
- The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement).
- the WIPO Joint Recommendation Concerning Provisions on the Protection of Well-Known Marks.
Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
The need to protect well-known marks was discussed internationally by the member states of the Paris Convention in the 1920’s, whereby the provision of Article 6bis was first incorporated in the Hague text of the Paris Convention in 1925. Thus, the term “well-known mark” in the Paris Convention has been interpreted as including famous trademarks as well. The heart of the protection for well-known trademarks if found in Article 6bis of the Paris Convention.
The provision of Article 6bis reads as follows: “ARTICLE 6bis (Protection of well-known marks)
- The countries of the Union undertake, ex officio if their legislation so permits, or at the request of an interested party, to refuse or to cancel the registration, and to prohibit the use of a trademark which constitutes a reproduction, an imitation, or a translation, liable to create confusion, of a mark considered by the competent authority of the country of registration or use to be well-known in that country as being already the mark of a person entitled to the benefits of this Convention and used for identical or similar goods. These provisions shall also apply when the essential part of the mark constitutes a reproduction of any such well-known mark or an imitation liable to create confusion therewith.
- A period of at least five years from the date of registration shall be allowed for requesting the cancellation of such a mark. The countries of the Union may provide for a period within which the prohibition of use must be requested.
- No time limit shall be fixed for requesting the cancellation or the prohibition of the use of marks registered or used in bad faith.”
The main content of Article 6bis of the Paris Convention is summarised as follows:
- There is no requirement for registration with respect to well-known marks in the country where protection is sought under Article 6bis;
- In order to be protected as well-known under Article 6bis, a mark must be recognized as well-known in that particular country;
- Any identical or similar mark to a well-known mark and liable to cause confusion in that it constitutes a reproduction, imitation or a translation shall be refused, have its registration cancelled, or shall have use by unauthorized third parties prohibited (hereinafter referred to as a third party’s mark);
- The ambit of well-known mark protection is limited to preventing from the use or registration of a third party’s trademark for similar or identical goods, in other words, the scope of goods which a trademark is to be used must be identical or similar to that of a well-known trademark.
- Article 6bis does not cover mark use for services;
- Article 6bis also applies to similar marks that derive their essential parts from a well-known trademark or are “an imitation liable to create confusion”.
- (vii) Interested parties have at least five years from the third party’s registration date to request cancellation. In the case that such trademark has been registered in bad faith, no statute of limitations is fixed; a request for invalidation trial can be accepted at any time.
It has been emphasized that Article 6bis provides a limited scope of protection for well-known marks, yet this still remains insufficient for meeting current needs regarding the protection of well-known marks from confusion, freerides and dilution, the insufficient issues may be mentioned as: trademark use or registration for services is not covered in this article, limitation of well-known mark protection is within similar or identical goods and the convention does not specify how the mark came to be well-known in that country.
However, Paris Convention is positioned much like a constitution within intellectual property legislation and insufficiencies in Article 6bis have now been supplemented with Article 16(2) and (3) of the TRIPS Agreement as well as the Joint Recommendation concerning Protection of well-known marks as prepared by WIPO and adopted by the Assembly of the Paris Union for the Protection of Industrial Property and the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) at the Thirty Fourth Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the member states of WIPO, September 20 to 29, 1999.
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights : TRIPS Agreement
The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights of 15 April 1994 (TRIPs Agreement) provides additional legal standards for recognition and protection of well-known marks. As is shown by its name, the TRIPs Agreement was born based on an awareness of occurrence of various serious problems involving trade and commerce, such as problems with counterfeit goods, due to a lack of harmony and shortcomings in system for protection of Intellectual Property rights implemented in numerous countries. In order to make enhanced protection of well-known marks on an international level, the TRIPs Agreement in Article 16(2) and (3) broadens the scope of Article 6bis of the Paris Convention as follows:
Article 16 (Rights Conferred)
(2) Article 6bis of the Paris Convention (1967) shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to services. In determining whether a trademark is wellknown, account shall be taken of the knowledge of the trademark in the relevant sector of the public, including knowledge in that Member obtained as a result of the promotion of the trademark.
(3) Article 6bis of the Paris Convention (1967) shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to goods or services which are not similar to those in respect of which a trademark is registered, provided that use of that trademark in relation to those goods or services would indicate a connection between those goods or services and the owner of the registered trademark and provided that the interests of the owner of the registered trademark are likely to be damaged by such use.
This provision, Article 16, is characterized by its supplementary role to Article 6bis of the Paris Convention in three ways:
- Extending the scope of well-known mark protection to services while Article 6bis explicitly only covers goods;
- Making more flexible in determining a wellknown trademark, or, in other words, taking knowledge of a trademark in relevant sectors of the public into consideration so that the criteria for determination of wellknown trademarks can more closely correspond to actual market conditions and be reflected in a viable environment.
- Expanding the scope of protection in which article 6bis of the Paris Convention is applied, even in cases of dissimilar goods or services, provided that use of that mark in relation to those goods or services would indicate a connection between those goods or services and the owner of the well-known mark and the interests of the owner of the well-known mark are likely to be damaged by such use. In other words, this provision is applied to the cases when the use of an identical or similar trademark causes the risk of confusion even in respect of dissimilar goods or services as well as impairs the goodwill and reputation established by the owner of well known mark resulting from use by third party (including, for example, socall free rides or dilution).
It should be noted that since Article 2 of the TRIPS Agreement requires respective provisions of the Paris Convention be automatically applied to WTO member countries as well, broad national protection can be expected in WTO member countries (a substantial number of countries are member to both the Paris Convention and WTO) in respect to Article 16(2) and (3) of the TRIPS Agreement.
Article 16(3) of the Trips Agreement makes a legal basis available for the protection of well-known marks on noncompeting goods or services provided that the trademark concerned has been registered. This also has its limitation because of fact that it requires registration of a well-known mark while the protection of a well-known mark against unauthorized use on noncompeting goods or services may be required without the presence of registration. It establishes where to seek evidence of such status but still leaves the question open as which sector of the public is relevant, how specific the relevant sector should be, to what factors are to be considered in the determination of when a mark qualifies as well known.
WIPO Joint Recommendations concerning provisions on Protection of Well-known Marks
A great number of countries had no provisions concerning the protection of well-known marks in domestic law at the time the establishment of the TRIPS Agreement was discussed internationally, but, after the TRIPS Agreement went into effect, all member countries of WTO as well as the Paris Convention had an obligation to protect all well-known and famous trademark sufficiently.
Under these circumstances, WIPO prepared the above mentioned Joint Recommendation concerning provisions on the protection of well-known marks. It was adopted at the joint assemblies of the Paris Convention Union and WTO, and became effective for countries member to not only the Paris Convention but also the WTO Treaty.
The Joint Recommendations provides guideline for determination of whether a mark is a well-known mark in a member state, of factors which shall not be required in determining, of which a mark shall be deemed to be in conflict with a well-known mark.
The Joint Recommendations makes all optional criteria, so it adds predictability for future well-known marks cases. It does, however, provide a reference for countries that have not yet clearly their well-known marks protection regulations.
Read more on :
- Tunisian Trademarks Law
- Nice Classification
- Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
- Madrid System for the international registration of trademarks
- Madrid Agreement for the Repression of False or Deceptive Indications of Source on Goods
- Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol
- Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin