Trademark protection Any sign that can be represented graphically may be registered as a trademark. A trademark may therefore consist of one or a combination of characters, letters, words (including slogans) or figures. A trademark may consist of designs, symbols, three-dimensional signs such as the shape or packaging of the product, sound marks such as musical or vocal sounds, scents or colours. A trademark is registered for specific product or service classes for a period of 10 years, with the option for indefinite renewal. Ideas, concepts, sounds and scents cannot be registered as trademarks, but trade names and advertising slogans can. Registering a trademark in addition to a patented product or registered design can significantly increase the commercial value in terms of goodwill or visual branding when the patent or industrial design registration expires. Registering a trademark grants statutory rights, which under certain conditions, prevent other people from using the trademark without the holder's prior authorisation, thereby preventing counterfeiting. It is possible to check online whether or not a trademark exists: in the Benelux Trademarks Register in the Register of Community Trademarks in the Register of International Trademarks How can protection be obtained? In the Benelux countries, national registration no longer exists, as the protection covers all three countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). The right to the Benelux trademark is granted upon first registration with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property. If the business activity extends across Europe, it is advisable for the applicant to file an application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office for the registration of a Community trademark. Community trademarks enjoy the same protection throughout all Member States of the European Union. If an enterprise owns a trademark and wishes to obtain international protection, the Madrid Agreement and Protocol concerning the international registration of trademarks enables this trademark to be protected in all signatory countries via a single registration at one office, in one language, and upon payment of a single set of fees in a single currency (Swiss Franc). International registration is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. International registration has the same effect in all designated countries as a national procedure undertaken in each individual country. Applications to register an international trademark may only be made by the person who owns the trademark or who has at least filed the same application at national level.