What is a trademark?

A trademark is a sign identifies and distinguishes your product and services from those of your competitors.

Your trademark may consist of:

  • a word (or different words)
  • a design (logo) or a combination of those
  • a three-dimensional shape
  • combination of colours
  • or even a sound (jingle).

Your trademark may also consist of other distinguishable symbols, such as your company or trade name or even your domain name.

Who can apply for a trademark?

In most countries, a trademark  can be applied for by:

  • a natural person (an individual)
  • a corporate entity
  • a combination of multiple natural persons and/or corporate entities


Trademarks are bound by the borders of the chosen jurisdiction (specific country or region).
Selection depends on where you consider extending your activities and where you wish to protect your products or services and challenge potential counterfeiting.
It is advisable to plan the “where, what and when” of your activities for the coming five years in order to avoid having to make new applications for additional goods or countries.

Community trademark System

The Community Trade Mark (CTM) came into being in 1996 and is administered by the OHIM (Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market). The CTM makes it possible for one single application to be filed in order to obtain protection in all 27 member states of the European Union, making one CTM registration valid for about 500 million consumers. The CTM is undivided, meaning that it cannot only be valid for a few member states and not for the others.

International System (Madrid system)

This system is based on two international conventions, the Madrid Agreement (1891) as amended and the Madrid Protocol (1989), both managed by WIPO (the World Intellectual Property Organization). To date, the System has more than 80 member states. (Click here to download the document "The Madrid System: list of Agreement and Protocol’s countries") The Madrid System makes it possible to obtain trademark protection by introducing one single application, in part of, or in all, signatory states. Each designated jurisdiction is governed by that country’s national rules. In conclusion: "A Madrid system registration is like a basket of national rights, but with the benefit of one central administrative office."

National and Benelux System

Each Benelux registration covers Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. The criteria are the same as for a Community registration and can also provide the basis for International registration.

More info:
Factsheet TM Benelux EN.pdf