What Is the Vienna Code for Trade Marks?
A trade mark is a form of intellectual property protection that distinguishes your brand from competitors. Trade marks can take many forms. Certain trade marks, such as your business logo or other images, may include figurative elements. Therefore, this can make it difficult to conduct a trade mark search. Indeed, conducting a trade mark search is a key aspect of the trade mark registration process.
The Vienna Code (or Vienna Classification) is a system that provides a solution to this issue. To help you better understand the Vienna Code, this article will take you through its purpose and structure.
What Is the Vienna Code?
The Vienna Code is a system that classifies the figurative elements of trade marks. The Code takes its name from the Vienna Agreement. Importantly, the Code classifies the figurative elements of trade marks into 29 broad categories, 145 divisions and 816 main sections.
Additionally, not all countries recognise the Vienna Code. For example, Australia has not ratified the agreement. Nevertheless, the Vienna Code is useful for Australian businesses with international trade marks in contracting countries.
To check whether the Vienna Code is relevant to you, it may be useful to view the list of the agreement’s parties.
Purpose of the Vienna Code
The World Intellectual Property Organisation established the Vienna Code to simply the international trade mark system. The Code unifies the individual classification systems each contracting country used in the past. As a result, the Code removes the need for reclassifying systems when you register trade marks in multiple countries.
Additionally, the Vienna Code makes trade mark searches easier. Indeed, if you intend to register a trade mark, you will need to conduct a trade mark search to ensure that it is available for use. However, this is difficult when searching for a figurative element, such as an image that your business’ logo uses. Therefore, the Vienna Code seeks to address this by standardising the trade mark search system.
Structure of the Vienna Code
The Vienna Code features a hierarchical structure: starting from a general element, it narrows down into smaller, more specific divisions and sections. Furthermore, each category and smaller section has been given a number that combines to form a code. Additionally, the Code leaves certain numbers empty to allow room for future additions, if necessary.
The 29 major classifications of the Vienna Code are:
1. celestial bodies and geographical maps;
2. human beings;
4. supernatural beings;
7. construction elements;
9. textiles and clothing items;
10. smoking goods, toilet articles and travel goods;
11. household utensils;
13. lighting, cooking, refrigeration and washing equipment;
16. telecommunications, photography and computers;
17. clocks, jewellery, measurement items;
18. transport equipment;
19. containers and packaging;
20. writing, painting and stationary materials;
21. toys and sporting equipment;
22. musical instruments;
23. arms and ammunition;
24. coins and emblems;
26. geometric figures and shapes;
27. writing scripts and numbers;
28. inscriptions in various characters;
29. and colours.
Applying the Vienna Code
It is helpful to use an example to illustrate how the Code works. Therefore, imagine you have a trade mark for a logo that depicts a man in a suit. The representation of the man in the suit belongs to category 2 (human beings), division 2 (men), main section 2.1.5 (man wearing a dinner jacket or suit).
The Vienna Code is an important classification system that seeks to make it easier to categorise trade marks with figurative elements. Additionally, some important things to note about the Vienna Code include that:
- not all countries are party to the Vienna Code;
- the Vienna Code is a hierarchical system; and
- the Vienna Code classifies visual elements of trade marks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Vienna Code is a classification system that organises the figurative elements of image trade marks. The Vienna Code was named after the agreement that brought it into force. Figurative elements are classified into 29 broad categories, 145 divisions and 816 main sections by the Code. Importantly, not all countries are party to the Vienna Code and it can only be used in certain circumstances.
The Vienna Code is structured hierarchically. Starting from a general element, it narrows down into smaller, more specific divisions and sections. Each category and smaller section has its own number, which combine to form a code. The Code is used to make it easier to conduct trade mark searches.
The Vienna Code is a unified trade mark classification system. It is useful because it simplifies international trade mark classification and trade mark searches. Therefore, Australian businesses with international trade marks in countries party to the Vienna Agreement should be aware of the Code and how the system works.