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What are formality reviews and substantive reviews of trademarks?

National trademark authorities generally take one of two approaches to examining trademark applications: substantive review and formality review. In jurisdictions with the substantive review, the trademark office will examine both the formal and substantive matters of an application. If the application meets the registration requirements, it will be approved for registration, but if it fails to do so, it will be rejected. On the other hand, in jurisdictions with formality review, the trademark office focuses only on the formalities of the application documents and procedural matters. Applicants who meet the formality requirements will be granted registration.

However, even in countries that adopt substantive review, the scope of the review may vary. In some countries such as the U.S., China, and Japan, the trademark authorities will scrutinize all aspects of a trademark application to determine whether it violates any prohibitive provisions and whether it conflicts with any previously registered trademark rights. In contrast, in the European Union and its member states, the authorities only assess whether a trademark application conforms to prohibitive provisions.

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