Updated November 26, 2020:

If you register a trademark worldwide, the word, phrase, symbol, design, or logo you register officially distinguish your goods or services from all others. Note that trademarks don't extend the same protections as copyrights and patents and that your rights to the protected content only apply in countries where you register your mark. Moreover, there is no universal trademark that applies to all countries. Consider working with an attorney to secure international trademark protection.

Trademark Registration

You can register a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The process includes:

  • Confirming through the trademark database that no one else has already registered the trademark(s).
  • Filing for your registration online.
  • Paying the registration fee.

Though international registration isn't a requirement and you don't have to register a trademark to enjoy some intellectual property protections in the U.S., you may do so if you plan on doing business internationally. This includes selling products or services online to international customers.

Also, note that registering a trademark will ensure that your registration info comes up when someone else performs a trademark search. This can help you avoid issues with infringement down the road.

Though you don't need an attorney to register a trademark, you may work with one to help you navigate international trademark laws if you plan on securing protections in more than one country. Moreover, you may need to obtain separate trademark registrations for your different goods and services depending on how you plan to use your trademark and which countries you want to register with. A trademark attorney can help with this process as well.

What Is the International Trademark Registration Process?

Though there is no universal trademark that applies in all countries, you can file a trademark with a group that represents several countries. A few options include:

  • The European Union (15 European countries)
  • The Madrid Protocol (dozens of countries worldwide)
  • The Andean Pact (several South American countries)

The Madrid Protocol, also known as the Madrid system, is the international trademark registration system. The World Intellectual Property Organization administers this system and manages roughly four million trademark applications every year.

A person who files for protections in a country included in the Madrid system may extend their trademark protection to other Madrid Protocol countries. This is done in the U.S., which is part of this group, as part of the international application process.

The Madrid system and other international trademark groups also handle the management of your trademark. If you make changes or renew your mark registration, those adjustments apply in all countries in the group. You won't have to deal with trademark processing in each location.

Currently, 113 countries offer protection under the Madrid Protocol. This includes countries in the European Union as well as China and Australia. Saudi Arabia, Canada, South Africa, and other major countries where you may want your trademark registered aren't part of the Madrid Protocol.

How to Register a Trademark Internationally

A trademark can't be registered internationally. Rather, you'll have to file an application in every country where you want your mark registered. Start with the U.S. This will help you register in any other countries you select.

You can file an international application with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office's Trademark Electronic Application System for International Applications. Before starting, learn more about how U.S. trademark protections work with the laws in all other countries where you'll apply. This is key to secreting the protections you need.

On your application, you can select from the 113 countries covered under the Madrid Protocol where you want your trademark protected. If you want protection in countries outside of this system, consider reaching out to a trademark attorney for recommendations on how you should proceed.

Working with an attorney experienced in international protections is key, as these specialists can help with unique issues such as how the translation of foreign words affects trademarks. An international trademark attorney can advise, for example, whether the brand or logo you want to trademark would be appropriate in other cultures.

Note that it's important to act quickly if you're interested in international protection. The common law system only applies to the U.S. Most foreign jurisdictions, however, look at whoever filed first to determine who owns the rights to a trademark.

Registering an international application costs $100.

If you need help with registering a trademark worldwide, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.