The 31st session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Trademarks, Industrial designs and Geographical Indications was held in Geneva between March, 17 and 21 2014. WIPO reviewed the Draft Recommendation proposal on the protection of country names, prepared by Jamaica delegate in December 2013.
This proposal has been ongoing pending since 2009, however to date the attempts to broaden the scope of article 6ter of the Paris Convention [for the Protection of Industrial Property] have proven unsuccessful. This article outlines the prohibitions regarding the use as a trademark of State emblems, official signs and hallmarks of intergovernmental organisations. The Standing Committee has noted that “the protection that currently exists internationally for country names is inconsistent internationally. Therefore there is need for internationally consistent protection for country names.”
Trademark protection may be useful for a country in international trade and in export markets for specific goods and services. This should protect States from misleading trademarks using the name of their country.
If the country name is used as a trademark, the government will become the brand owner and will be responsible for all that it entails (acquisition, maintenance and enforcement of rights). In practice, this also means that the government must have competent lawyers to manage the brand both domestically and abroad.
The US has submitted various questions to the Committee, including with respect to States that may decline to manage their trademark. South Africa also expressed its reservations with regards to the draft recommendation.