There is no such thing as an ‘international’ trademark. To get trademark protection in a country, you must register your trademark in that country. For example, a registered trademark in Canada provides you with no protection in the United States. Similarly, a registered trademark in the U.S. provides you with no protection in Canada. If you want protection in more than one country, you must register individually in each of those countries.
Having said this, there are several international treaties that streamline the application process if you are applying in more than country. The widest of these treaties is the Madrid Protocol. This is sometimes referred to as an ‘international’ trademark, but that is inaccurate.
The Madrid Protocol is a set of common rules for processing trademark applications that cover such matters as who can apply, when the application can be made, how the wares and services must be described, how long the country has to review the application, how long a registration is good for and many other matters. Once a country signs on to the Madrid Protocol, it must process foreign applications according to these common principals and procedures. There are more than 100 countries that have signed on. The Madrid Protocol permits a trademark applicant to fill in one trademark application, and then have that application sent to any other ‘Madrid’ country. For example, a U.S. ‘resident’ can submit one trademark application to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) – the organization that administers the Madrid Protocol – and then have that application sent on to the U.K., Germany, China and Japan, which are all signators of Madrid. Each of those countries must then process the application, and advise the applicant of any problems with the registration of the mark in their country. If there are none, the mark will then be registered in that country. This is a brief overview of the process, which in fact is much more complex.
Canada has not signed the Madrid Protocol. Hence, Canadian individuals and companies must apply for protection individually to each country they want protection in. Conversely, a non-Canadian applicant for a Canadian trademark must apply directly for the trademark and cannot use the Madrid Protocol.