Setting up a business

Intellectual Property

In general, the principle of registration prevails: there is no right in an invention (patent), distinctive sign (trademark), industrial design, or computer software unless and until it is registered.

Unlike countries such as the United States, Spain uses the first to file system: the first party applying to register has priority; in other words, use alone does not give any right against others, except in the case of well-known trademarks.

The principle of territoriality also prevails: protection is only afforded in the countries in which the trademark or patent is registered. Elsewhere, the trademark or patent can be freely used by others, since it is understood that it is in the public domain. Accordingly, trademark or patent registration in the country of origin does not grant protection in other countries.

Patent and trademark rights are property rights and can therefore be assigned or charged or transferred by any legally permitted means. License agreements are most often used for this purpose.

Spanish intellectual property laws are harmonized with those of the other EU Member States and Spain has ratified the main international treaties in this field.


For further information, visit the extended version of our online Guide to Business:

Intellectual property law



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Last updated: 24|01|2018

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