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Domain-Registrations / Trademark- Applications last 3 months:

17
18
23
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Trademarks

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4581

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On monthly basis, annual percentage change

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News

02.08.2006 available in germanavailable in english

Trademark Comment

The Invisible Trademark
ZUNE: Comments on Microsoft’s Trademark Strategy

Microsoft has announced a new product with a dedicated  investment of 500 million dollars. – ZUNE is due to be the name of their contender to Apple’s iPOD. Yet, at first glance, the project is without any trademark protection - no corresponding trademark in the register of the US Patent and Trademark Office or any Community Trademark has been registered, only a national trademark in the Trademark Register of the German Patent and Trademark Office.

This trademark ZUNE (Register number: 30634103)  is however Microsoft’s trump card in  the international trademark struggle. Based on this trademark, international protection can be applied for at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. This international registration, on the basis of the Madrid Agreement  (or the Madrid Protocol), permits the registration date of the national mark to be transferred over to the international protection. That means that  Microsoft can demand protection in the USA from 11.07.2006, namely the registration date of the German trademark. The only US trademark at the moment  that lays claim to the designation ZUNE in the Nice Class 9 (ZUNEGEAR, Serial Number 78930482)  has  the 16.07.2006 as its application date and therefore would be  less senior in priority.

Microsoft appears therefore  to be leaning completely on a German trademark as a part of its international trademark strategy for a new product. On the face of it, this course of action for a US company is rather unusual, but there are nonetheless a few solid reasons justifying such a trademark strategy.

1. Swift processing through the German Patent and  Trademark Office:
 

Admittedly, in everyday dialog in Germany the word ‘Beamter (i.e. Government Employee)’ is not unconditionally accepted as being synonymous with breakneck speed  and tempo, but the average processing time at the DPMA in Germany is not bad in international comparison,  especially in comparison with the American USPTO.

With a perfectly-prepared application and the right contacts, a processing time of six weeks can be achieved,  as was the case for ZUNE.  Taking into consideration  that for the trademark strategy being described,  it is the date of registration that is the important date, the shortest possible processing time on the part of the authorities is a decisive factor.

2. The ‘invisible’ trademark: 

Contrary to procedures at the German DPMA, ownership investigation is allowed at the US Patent and Trademark Office into applied-for trademarks also. Competition monitoring in the USA is thus available almost  up to the very present  A US application discernible from the actual application date would have cleared the way for all kinds of domain grabbers, e.g. for various European states, if  Microsoft had carried through a simultaneous US/Europe application. The company can save itself this expense with its chosen strategy  and ensure clear priority,  all being invisible to the competition and various elements likely to act in bad-faith

With this invisible trademark Microsoft are now coming out of the shadows and overhauling all those who tend to fall into ‘gold-grabbing mood’ on the disclosure of  an apparently protection-less name.

Contributed by Lawyer Karsten Prehm, Germany, Trademark Law Specialist
www.markenservice.com

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