‘Accession process to Madrid Protocol getting into top gear’

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The government is now in the process of speeding up accession to the Madrid Protocol to enable local and foreign enterprises to register their trademarks locally and outside Sri Lanka respectively, before the end of this year, chairperson Export Development Board and Chief Executive Indira Malwatte said.

"Delays in the local trademark registration process could undermine the massive benefits deriving from Sri Lanka’s decision to comply with the Madrid Protocol. Accession could also  strengthen the  National Intellectual Property Office (NIPO), and help avoid the cumbersome procedures faced by local businessmen in building brands not only in Sri Lanka but also overseas, Malwatte told a media conference on Tuesday.

The forum was organised by Verite Research on the theme " Facilitating Trademark Registration: Towards creating globally recognised Sri Lankan brands".The event was held at the Sri Lanka Press Institute Auditorium, Narehenpita.

She said the EDB always assists companies to build brands and is now clustering all Sri Lanka brands. 'At present the EDB has registered in USA, EU and Peru and is hoping get registration in New Zealand and Australia, she said.

She said that the Madrid Protocol which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is a centralized global system for registering and maintaining trademarks in foreign countries. 

The present government in its maiden budget allocated Rs.100 million to fast track accession to the Madrid Protocol. But the government is yet to iron out issues on the home front, specially at the state agency level, to fully embrace and benefit from the system.

Registering trademarks locally is an important first step for any company that seeks to register its brand abroad to reap benefits from the global system. But it appears major bottlenecks exist within the local trademark registration process. 

Verité Research Executive Director and economist Nishan de Mel said that having to wait for 48 - 60 months before applying for international registration undermines the gains of the Madrid Protocol.

With Sri Lanka still not being a signatory to the Madrid Protocol, to go global, companies are required to register in each of their target markets with separate applications, making the process a time-consuming and a costly exercise.

De Mel warned Sri Lanka runs the risk of being compliant with Madrid requirements without being able to truly benefit from it.

"To gain its full benefits, Sri Lanka must think beyond mere compliance. This must be done by taking measures to address the current bottlenecks faced by Sri Lankan companies registering their trademarks at home, he said

Despite a year having passed since the proposal to accession was made, stakeholders are not informed or made aware of the progress Sri Lanka has made, he said."In order to gain accession to the Protocol and integrate into the overall trade strategy of the country, involvement of exporters as well as export promotion agencies is essential, stressed de Mel.

NIPO of Sri Lanka takes approximately three to five years to process a trademark registration application, whereas the ideal processing period should be no more than 18 months.

When Sri Lanka’s position with that of regional peers is compared; Singapore processes applications within 8 -12 months, India and Pakistan within 12 plus months and Bangladesh within 18 -24 months.

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