22 January 2013

Caribbean IP Part 25: Trinidad and Tobago

ISO 3166 country code: TT.

As 96% of the population live on Trinidad - Tobago has a population of just over 50,000 - the country is often referred to as just Trinidad (much like Antigua and Barbuda is referred to as Antigua). Nevertheless, I'll refer to it in its more proper longer form.

Trinidad and Tobago is party to a number of International Agreements on intellectual property and plays a particularly active role compared to its regional neighbours. Membership includes the Berne Convention, Locarno Agreement, Nice Agreement, Paris Convention, Patent Cooperation Treaty, Trademark Law Treaty, UPOV Convention, Vienna Agreement and WIPO Convention.

It has yet to join the Madrid Protocol for trade marks or the Hague System for industrial designs.

The trade mark law in Trinidad is modern and the Intellectual Property Office works reasonably efficiently. The forms are straightforward to understand, with some similarities with those in the UK.

The Trinidadian and Tobagonian Government operates a portal which provides the general public on information on intellectual property, most notably on registering a trade mark.

Unfortunately, the actual IPO's website never seems to load for me.

Trinidad and Tobago has recent legislation for the protection of industrial designs dating from 2007 and it is necessary to file locally - or, in other words, a UK registration provides no protection.

The country has modern laws in place, an Office that operates with reasonable speed and has joined various International Agreements. It is felt that - with some amendments to the local trade mark legislation - that the country would be well equipped to join the Madrid Protocol. As a significant market in the English-speaking Caribbean they would be a welcome addition to the Madrid family.

18 January 2013

Article 9sexies of the Madrid Protocol - clearly explained

I've commented on WIPO's Madrid Highlights a couple of times (here and here).

Their fourth issue has recently been published on their website and I shall not comment on its "usual" contents. Some of you may have subscribed to this anyway.

I must say though that I particularly liked WIPO's way of explaining Article 9sexies of the Madrid Protocol. For those of us from countries that are members of the Madrid Protocol only this is, largely speaking, not relevant in day-to-day work. However, from time-to-time you may end up representing a proprietor from a member state of both the Madrid Agreement and Madrid Protocol, perhaps it has tax benefits being established in such a member state, for example. It is then that you may find WIPO's explanations appearing on pages 6 and 7 useful.

I commend WIPO for putting this information in such an easy to digest way and, I hope, also in the new language versions of Madrid Highlights in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish (the five other official UN languages) when these are released in due course.

Of a more picky note - me being keen on geographic accuracy - the map on page 5 is slightly inaccurate in that the large island of Greenland is not coloured in turquoise. Yes, my name is contained in the word "pedant", possibly by no coincidence!

15 January 2013

Caribbean IP Part 24: Suriname

ISO 3166 country code: SR.

Suriname, or Surinam, is the smallest independent nation in South America but with a Dutch-colonial history it is often categorised with the Caribbean (see also neighbouring English-speaking Guyana). It is an ethnically diverse nation yet Dutch remains the official language, although there are dialectal differences from the Dutch dialects spoken in Europe.

Suriname is a member of the Berne Convention, Hague Agreement, Nice Agreement, Paris Convention, Strasbourg Agreement and WIPO Convention. Most of these memberships were continuations of the Netherlands' memberships following Suriname's independence in 1975.

Notably, this includes the Hague Agreement for the International Registration of Industrial Designs. However, this membership only extends to the Hague Act and not the Geneva Act. Applicants from Geneva Act only members will not be able to use the Hague System for protecting designs in Suriname. This would include an EU applicant who can rely only on the EU's Geneva Act membership e.g. the likes of British, Danish, Finnish, Irish, Spanish and Swedish applicants.

It is not apparent that independent industrial design registration is available for Suriname. For trade marks, Suriname does not have membership of the Madrid Protocol but national applications can be filed locally. There are backlogs with applications but it isn't a complete black hole and applications do eventually mature to registration.

Service marks are not yet registrable - the trade mark legislation dates from colonial times - and patent protection is unavailable in Suriname. Little mention appears to being made to updating legislation in relation to intellectual property which leaves an impression that Suriname has little interest in intellectual property rights.

8 January 2013

Caribbean IP Part 23: Sint Maarten

ISO 3166 country code: SX.

Sint Maarten was a part of the Netherlands Antilles up until its dissolution on 10 October 2010. Much of what was written about Curaçao applies to Sint Maarten.

For a transitional period of one year the Sint Maarten Bureau of Intellectual Property was to be managed in Curaçao (by what was the former Bureau of Intellectual Property of the Netherlands Antilles). Effectively, the laws for Sint Maarten and Curaçao were to remain the same and the Registers would have operated in parallel. Owners of existing Netherlands Antilles registrations were automatically considered to cover both Sint Maarten and Curaçao. Of course, from 10 October 2010 it has been possible to file or renew in Curaçao only, or in Sint Maarten only.

The one-year transitional period in which Sint Maarten should have began operations of its own IP Office has now passed and I am not aware that this Office has been established in the St Maartener capital of Philipsburg or elsewhere in the country. Once this happens then we may see a divergence in practice and timelines compared to the Office in Curaçao.