GENEVA (AP) -- Trademark registrations dropped for the first time in 2009 as a result of the global economic downturn, the U.N. intellectual property agency said Thursday.
International filings with the World Intellectual Property Organization fell by 16 percent to 35,925 last year, following a slowdown in new applications in 2008.
A registered trademark protects a company from having its name or a phrase associated with it used by others to sell products.
Francis Gurry, the agency's director-general, said the drop was "significant" but unsurprising given that trademarks are a key indicator of business confidence.
Companies from Germany filed almost 4,800 trademarks with the U.N. system last year, a drop of 23 percent. The figure doesn't include trademarks filed through the European Union's registration office, which totaled over 3,700 last year.
France came second in national filings, and the U.S. was third.
China remains the most popular jurisdiction in which companies registered their new trademarks, followed by Russia and the United States.
Gurry told reporters in Geneva that international enforcement of trademark rights is still too weak because countries are reluctant to harmonize their legal systems.