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International trademark filings at the World Intellectual Property Organization dropped 16 percent in 2009, amid a 12 percent decline in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filings. The WIPO dip stems from a global economic slowdown and restrained consumer demand around the world, said Francis Gurry, WIPO’s director general, in a statement. Last year, 35,195 international trademark applications flowed into WIPO’s 84-member system, which includes countries and groups of nations like the European Union. That compares with 42,075 applications in 2008. Activity varied worldwide, with filings from the United States and the United Kingdom each sliding 13 percent, and filings from China dropping 14 percent. Filings from a number of European countries also slid, including 34 percent from both the Czech Republic and Sweden, 32 percent from Italy, 30 percent from Spain, 27 percent from Denmark, 23 percent from Germany, 17 percent from France and 16 percent from Austria. European Union filings and applications from Japan climbed a modest 3 percent. Filings from several countries also climbed sharply, including 33 percent from the Republic of Korea, 21 percent from Singapore, 18 percent from Croatia and 15 percent from Hungary. PTO trademark filings for fiscal year 2009, which ended on Sept. 30, dipped to 352,051 applications from 401,392 in fiscal year 2008. The numbers count applications requesting more than one class of trademark registration as separate filings. Total filings, which count multiple classification requests as a single application, also dropped 12 percent. Companies are simply not bringing as many brands to market, so there’s less demand for new brands and new trademark filings, said Julia Huston, who chairs the trademark and copyright practice at Boston’s Foley Hoag. Trademark filings are down because companies are trying to get more value from their existing brands or using a housemark, which is typically a variation of the company’s name, instead of individual product trademarks, Huston said. Companies are also not filing trademark applications if they think the mark will have a short lifespan or isn’t especially commercially valuable to the company, Huston said. “Companies are choosing to invest only in their most valuable marks,” she said. The WIPO filings from the United States are weaker than U.S. filings because companies are “looking very closely at worldwide trademark portfolios and in some cases dramatically cutting costs,” said Glenn Gundersen, an intellectual property partner in the Philadelphia office of Dechert. “[They're also] not initially filing as broadly geographically as they have previously,” Gundersen said. In the United States, trademark applications fell sharply during the fourth quarter of 2008 as the economic crisis took hold, and declined each month last year until November, Gundersen said. But in each month from November 2009 through February, U.S. filings topped the prior year’s filings, said Gundersen. “The numbers are showing glimmers of hope for U.S. filings when you look at them on a monthly basis,” Gundersen said.

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