The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property was one of the first international intellectual property (IP) treaties, covering patents, utility models, industrial designs, trademarks, service marks, trade names, indications of source or appellations of origin, and unfair competition.
Here are our 10 key facts about this pivotal treaty:
1. Its origins lie in the Austria-Hungarian Empire
In 1873, the Government of the Empire of Austria-Hungary invited overseas inventors to participate in an international exhibition of inventions in Vienna. However, many declined due to concerns over inadequate legal protection for their innovations. After first passing a law to secure temporary IP protections for all foreigners participating in the exhibition, the Empire convened the Congress of Vienna for Patent Reform later that same year. At the follow-up International Congress on Industrial Property, which took place in Paris in 1878, attendees agreed to organize an international diplomatic conference to determine "the basis of uniform legislation" for industrial property.
2. The Paris Convention started with just 11 signatory states
There are now 179 contracting parties to the Paris Convention but only 11 of these countries were signatories to the first edition of the treaty. Approved in Paris, the International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (later known as the Paris Convention) was signed initially by Belgium, Brazil, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland on March 20, 1883. When it came into effect on July 7 of the following year, Tunisia and the United Kingdom had also deposited their instruments of accession in time.
3. It has been revised six times
There have since been six revisions to the Paris Convention: at Brussels on December 14, 1900; at Washington on June 2, 1911; at the Hague on November 6, 1925; at London on June 2, 1934; at Lisbon on October 31, 1958; and at Stockholm on July 14, 1967. It was last amended on September 28, 1979.
4. It established a union of IP authorities...
Countries that signed the Paris Convention formed a 'union' of IP authorities that is referred to, sometimes, as the “Paris Union.” Its goal is to ensure the same treatment for all applicants, whether they are foreign or domestic.
5. ... with the same foundational principles
The key tenets of the Paris Convention are the right to national treatment, the right to priority, common rules, and a unified framework for the treaty's implementation.
6. National treatment opened the system up to all
By committing to national treatment, Paris Union countries must show no preferential treatment to IP owners who are citizens over those who are not. IP owners who are non-residents and non-nationals of a Paris Union country have the same expectations and rights under the law as nationals.
7. The Paris Convention solved some major international filing challenges
Before the Paris Convention, patent applications had to be made roughly at the same time in all countries, or else publication in one country could destroy the novelty of the invention in others. Thanks to the right of priority established by the Paris Convention, home country patent owners have a 12-month period in which to file a Paris Convention application (or a direct national filing application claiming priority) in countries party to the Paris Convention.
8. Countries are continuing to join
Of the 179 contracting parties to the Paris Convention, the most recent additions are Cabo Verde (2022), Kiribati (2021/22), Afghanistan (2017), Kuwait (2014), and Samoa (2013).
9. It is different from the PCT
The Paris Convention is often confused with the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT is also an international treaty that enables applicants to file a patent once and then extend protection in other countries within a 12-month window. The difference between the Paris Convention and a PCT filing, however, is that the PCT is equivalent to filing separate patent applications in each specific PCT country. With the PCT, patent holders have about 30 months (depending on the country) to bring the patent to National Phase and validate the patent in the specific PCT countries.
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