As of 1 January 1996 the Benelux Trademark Act (BTA), which covers The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, has been amended to implement the 1988 EC-directive on the Harmonisation of Trademark Legislation.

Of old, the BTA is based on a first-to-file system and trademark rights can be invoked as of the date of application. In addition, there is no opposition procedure, and as a consequence the BTA has always provided a relatively simple and quick way of obtaining a trademark registration.

Since 1 January 1996 the Benelux Trademark Office may refuse a registration of a trademark, inter alia if it is descriptive of the goods or services for which it has been registered. The first experiences with the system seem to indicate that the BTO is applying rather strict criteria for descriptiveness.

The trademark "JeansWear" has been refused for denim clothing as has the trademark "Prima Pasta" for both pasta, toothpaste ("tandpasta" in Dutch) and glue. The first refusals have come within two months of filing the applications. Meanwhile a backlog of work has increased the response time of the BTO.

Refusal of a registration can be opposed by the applicant within 6 months. As yet there is no experience with this procedure.

For further information contact Sebastiaan Le Poole at telephone No. +31 (0)20-5772302 or Wolter Wefers Bettink at +31 (0)20-5772367. You may also send a fax to +31 (0)20-5772703 or e-mail to

SEMINAR: On 29 October 1996 NSC, in cooperation with Shield Mark and Houthoff, organizes the seminar 'Merkenrecht naar de 21e eeuw' (Trademark law towards the 21st century). More information from Marieke Vergoossen at NSC, telephone No. +31 (0)10-4349966 or fax No. +31 (0)10-4349960.