Under the Benelux treaty Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands have formed a union for economic cooperation including the unity of a trademark system. Consequently, the national trademark systems in all three countries were annulled, and have been unified under the Benelux trademark law, regulation and authority.
To obtain a trademark protection in the Benelux countries, the application for the Benelux trademark can be filed through the Benelux registration system or the international registration system. For a trademark registration in Benelux, an application has to be filed before the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property in the Hague. In addition, an international applicant without a valid address in the Benelux or the European Union needs a representative to file a Benelux trademark application.
For the international registration, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has provided a platform for international registrations among members of the so called “Madrid Agreement”. Benelux is also a member of this agreement, and therefore it’s possible to file an application for a Benelux trademark using the international registration system.
An applicant (both national and international) who has a valid address in European Union can file a Benelux trademark application without any representative. However, due to the complexity of the Benelux trademark application process, a trademark representative is recommended. Once the application has been accepted, the authority will examine the Benelux trademark application thoroughly. These examinations include a formality examination and a distinctiveness examination. Once the authority’s requirements have been fulfilled and all required documents have been submitted, the Benelux trademark application will be published in the Online Benelux Bulletin for opposition purpose. This opposition period lasts 2 months starting from the publication date. During the opposition period, any third party who has a prior Benelux trademark or European Union trademark (Community Trademark) which is similar or identical to the published mark can oppose the Benelux trademark registration.
Therefore, before filing a Benelux trademark application, a search for similar or identical Benelux and European Union trademarks is advisable (an adequate search will significantly lower the risk of complications and delays during the registration process). The duration of a Benelux trademark is 10 years from the date of the application and can be renewed for a period of 10 years.
After obtaining a Benelux trademark, the trademark owner has to use the Benelux trademark inside the territory of the Benelux. If the Benelux trademark has not been used within 5 years from the registration date or ,later, has not been used for 5 consecutive years, the Benelux trademark may be subject to cancelation.