In 2010, the European Union was the most designated member in terms of designs for which protection was requested, the WIPO said.
Reflecting a recovery from the global financial and economic crisis of 2008-09, overall filings through the United Nations agency's system rose by 12.8% after a 16% drop the previous year.
"International trademark activity has rebounded and has nearly recovered the ground lost in 2009," commented WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry. "The significant growth in filings under the Hague system shows that, in spite of difficult economic times, companies continue to invest in protecting industrial design."
China emerging as top filer
While European countries continued to top the global rankings, China increased the number of trademarks it filed through the 85-nation international registration system by a massive 42% last year, the WIPO said.
China's 1,928 applications across a wide range of industrial activity, accounting for 4.9% of all filings, marked a sharp turnaround from the previous year when amid the global downturn its applications dropped by 14.3% against 2008.
US filings were also up sharply last year, by 29.6% for a total of 4,147, putting the United States in third place among applicants after Germany – with 5,006 – and the European Union's common trademark office with 4,707.
WIPO officials say trademark applications reflect the introduction of new products and services to the market and are sensitive to business cycles. In a downturn, they say, consumers opt for tried and trusted brands and products.
Larger countries in the 27-nation European Union file to WIPO through their own national systems but taken together with those filed through the EU office accounted, with a total of 22,403 applications, for more than half the global total.
Germany ranks first, France fourth
Germany, the world's largest single trading nation, filed 12.6% of the global total but with a growth of only 4.4% over 2009.
Applications channeled through the EU's Office of Harmonisation of the Internal Market (OHIM) accounted for just under 12% of the global total with a hefty growth of 27%, according to the WIPO figures.
France, which saw a decline of 16.5% in 2009, only boosted filings by just over 1% last year, ceding its third place in the league table to the United States.
But Italy, after reducing applications by 32.2% in 2009 against 2008, rebounded in 2010 to a growth of 38.7%, retaining 7th place with a total of 6.5% of world filings.
Japan, which bucked the trend in 2009 when it saw a growth of 2.7%, increased its total further by 20.2%, while Russia, after a decline of 10.3% in 2009, picked up by 14% to increase filings by 4%.
The biggest percentage increase – although from a low base – was notched up by South Korea which boosted filings by a whopping 42.2%. But at 17th place in the table, it accounted for just under 1% of the world total.
(EurActiv with Reuters.)