The most recent and relevant developments related to intellectual property (IP) in Panama have been the amendment of Law 35 of 1996 (Panama’s Industrial Property Law) through Law 61 of 2012, and the amendment of Law 15 of 1994 (Copyright Law) through Law 64 of 2012. These amendments have enabled Panama to update two laws that for many years were considered models for the IP in the region.
Panama has updated its IP laws in order to keep up with the changing world and new technologies. It adheres to the oldest instruments of law in the field, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the General Inter-American Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Trademark Law Treaty, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Work, among others.
Panama offers a simplified trademark protection system that was among the first in the region to offer free access to its database, enabling easier and faster access to information relating to both registered trademarks and those in the process of being registered in the country. The registration process itself is simple and can be completed in roughly seven months (excluding opposition by third parties, which would obviously extend the registration process).
Once the interested party has verified that the trademark is available for registration in the class or classes of interest, that party can proceed with the filing. An examination of the application takes place about one or two months after the initial submission of the application. Once the application has successfully passed examination, a trademark bulletin number (known as the Boletín Oficial de Registro de la Propiedad Industrial, BORPI) is assigned for publication of the application (for opposition purposes). A publication term of two months starts the day after release of the BORPI during which time any party affected by the application may file an opposition lawsuit before specialised IP courts. If no oppositions are filed against the application, the registration will be granted for a term of five or 10 years, depending on the preference of the filing party, and renewable, indefinitely, for the same term.
Modifications included in Law 61 of 2012 are the acceptance of applications covering more than one class (multi-class applications), the acceptance of sound and scent marks, automatic protection of trade names by means of their use in commerce, and the elimination of the requirement to register agreements related to licences of use before the Industrial Property Registry General Directorate in order for them to be valid.
At the administrative level, the elimination of the requirement to submit a certificate of existence and representation of the applicant as well as the requirement to notarise and legalise the power of attorney needed for the application are extremely convenient for foreign applicants, who no longer face delays related to lengthy legalisation processes.
Furthermore, Panama approved the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 2012, enabling any application filed after September 2012 to include Panama. By adhering to this treaty, the country thus accepted an international standard for filing patent applications while retaining the right to grant or refuse a patent.
Trademark owners may submit their certificates for registration to The Colón Free Zone Intellectual Property Department and the Intellectual Property Department of the National Customs Authority. Both keep databases of registered trademarks in the country to have access to updated and verifiable information regarding the owner of a certain trademark. This becomes relevant for the import, export and transport of goods through Panamanian ports. Since the Customs Authority performs random inspections of shipping containers, suspected counterfeit goods may be apprehended until their authenticity can be clearly verified.
OBG would like to thank Morgan & Morgan for its contribution to THE REPORT Panama 2015
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