The Trademark Law Treaty (TLT), adopted on October 27, 1994, entered into force on August 1, 1996. Thirty-three countries, including the United States, are party to the TLT as of July 1, 2005. The TLT was enacted to simplify procedures in the application and registration process and to harmonize trademark procedures in different countries. The TLT harmonizes procedures of national trademark offices by establishing the maximum requirements a contracting party can impose.
The TLT gives service marks — the distinctive identifiers of businesses that offer a service, as opposed to goods — "equal" status with trademarks. Previously, many foreign countries treated trademarks and service marks differently. The TLT requires member nations to register service marks and treat them as they would trademarks.
From the trademark owner's perspective, the TLT saves time and money in the preparation and filing of documents for the application. It streamlines the process for post-registration renewals, recording assignments, changes of name and address, and powers of attorney. Member countries to the TLT are now required to permit the use of multi-class applications, enabling trademark owners to file a single application covering multiple classes of goods and services.
Another significant feature of the TLT that benefits trademark owners is its prohibition of requirements by national offices for authentication or certification of documents as well as signatures on trademark applications and correspondence. Many countries had required that any signatures submitted in support of registration of a mark be notarized or otherwise legalized in accordance with the laws of that nation. Under the TLT, it is no longer necessary in most instances to go through these procedures. This feature enables trademark owners to complete and file trademark documents more quickly, at less cost.
An additional advantage of the TLT is the harmonization of the initial and renewal terms of trademark registration among signatory countries: The TLT provides for an initial 10-year term, with 10-year renewals.
Other key features of the TLT include the introduction of an intent-to-use application system (with proof of use prior to registration); streamlined renewal procedures; minimization of the elements to obtain an application filing date; and simplified procedures for recording changes in name and ownership of trademark applications and registrations.
Overall, the TLT is intended to facilitate international trade: It is of particular importance to individuals and small businesses looking for markets in other countries. Currently, WIPO's Standing Committee on Trademarks, Industrial Designs, and Geographical Indications (SCT) is conducting negotiations on proposed revisions to the TLT.