ESA and trademarks
Trademarks are a symbol that distinguishes the product and services of one manufacturer or retailer from another. Any person or organisation having legal status can register a trademark. This includes ESA.
ESA’s Convention stipulates that, “The Agency shall have legal personality. It shall in particular have the capacity to contract, to acquire and dispose of movable and immovable property, and to be a party to legal proceedings”. This is reasserted by the international case law as the European Court of Justice considers that all legal actions directed to enable an international organisation to fulfil its missions shall be of its competence. The trademark registered by the international organisation shall respect trademarks laws.
When an ESA programme is conceived and developed with a view of future commercial activities, then ESA requests trademark protection of the name. Some well-known ESA trademarks are ESA, Ariane and Vega. These names all refer to programmes which when initiated foresaw the possibility of future commercial activities for goods and services such as launchers, telecommunications, data transmission and elaboration, databases, business etc.
Protecting ESA’s logo
ESA’s logo, composed of the symbol and the “ESA” text, is protected under article 6 ter of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. This means that ESA's emblem, abbreviation and title benefit from protection in the 163 Member Countries of the Convention. These countries are invited to refuse or invalidate attempts to register the protected logo, abbreviation and titles, and forbid their use by a third party if this could generate confusion in the mind of the public. The ESA name and logo are also protected by trademarks.”
To enforce the protection of its logo ESA carries out systematic checks with national Patent and Trademark offices to prevent the use of its logo by companies in ways that could harm ESA’s image and activities. However, the national Patent and Trademark office of a Member State of the Paris Convention may not refuse or invalidate the filing of a name and/or logo as trademark similar to that of an international organisation if the goods and services covered by that name would not create confusion in the mind of the public with the activities of the international organisation.
The meaning of ESA’s logo
The symbol used reflects ESA’s nature and activities. It incorporates the only element of ESA’s name common to all languages of Member States - the letter ‘e’ for European. This is represented by a circular “e”, which stands out from the globe that represents our planet. The thin stripes suggest orbit and axis, and the white dot represents a satellite in outer space. The logo’s two components, the symbol and the ESA name, should never be used separately.