Trademark protection slows as crisis bites-WIPO

* International copyright requests hit record, but slowing

* Germany again top applicant

* China and Russia increasingly use system

GENEVA, March 9 (Reuters) - Requests for international trademarks hit a record last year, but have started to slow as the economic crisis unfolds, a United Nations agency said on Monday.

Trademark applications under the “Madrid system” in which businesses seek protection in foreign countries they designate totalled 42,075 in 2008, a rise of 5.3 percent, the World Intellectual Property Organisation WIPO said in a statement.

But growth year-on-year slowed to 3.9 percent in the second half of the year from 6.9 percent in the first half.

“The impact of the economic crisis is commencing to make itself felt,” said WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry.

“Trade marks in general concern new products or new enterprises and in conditions of economic recession you get less of both of those two things, and we are experiencing the continuation of that slowdown in the course of this year,” he told a news conference.

More than half a million trademarks are now in force internationally through the 84-member Madrid System.

For the fifth year in succession, Germany filed more trademark applications than any other country, accounting for 6,214 or nearly 15 percent of the total in 2008, a WIPO report shows. But China, Japan and Russia are all making increasing use of the system.

Of the countries designated as ones where protection is sought, China topped the rankings for the fourth year in succession, followed by Russia in second place for the third year in a row.

The growing number of trademarks sought in China and Russia indicates that companies see protection as both important and possible in these key markets, Gurry said.

He cited an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study which estimated that the value of physical goods counterfeited in international trade -- excluding in other words purely domestic counterfeiting and piracy of services such as software and music -- totalled $200 billion.

Among trademark registrations, software and computers were the biggest category, followed by business services.

The biggest applicants were German discount retailer Lidl, followed by Swiss foodmaker Nestle NESN.VX and German detergents-to-glue group Henkel HNKG_p.DE.

WIPO is unusual among U.N. agencies in that most of its budget comes from the sale of services, such as trademark registration, and Gurry acknowledged that the slowdown would hit its revenues in 2010-11, forcing it to cut costs. (For the WIPO report go to (Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Charles Dick)