In an effort to drum up international business opportunities and potentially earn greater revenue for government, the Cayman Islands will seek to replace its current Patents and Trademarks Law with two separate pieces of legislation, Commerce Minister Wayne Panton said Wednesday.
Mr. Panton said the new Trademarks Bill will introduce a local register for trademarks – symbols or words used to represent a business or a product – that now must be registered first in the United Kingdom and then extended to Cayman.
Local attorney Huw Moses, whose firm HSM Chambers specializes in copyright law, said the current law causes Cayman’s government to lose out on registration fees if certain international companies register through the U.K. and also do business in the Cayman Islands. Often, he said, those companies will wait “until there’s a problem” in Cayman before registering their trademarks here.
Mr. Panton also said Wednesday that the U.K. trademark regime may not be the best fit for Cayman.
“There are … costly requirements to use a trademark in the U.K. which serve to prevent a challenge to a trademark,” he said. In addition, local individuals and companies will find it easier to access trademark protections in Cayman.
“Caribbean Utilities Company’s ‘Sparky’ [the turtle] logo, is registered in the U.K. Does CUC do business in the U.K.? I don’t think so,” Mr. Moses said.
To extend local trademark rights internationally, Mr. Panton said Cayman would likely have to sign on to “several international treaties and conventions.”
While quite a bit of reform may be needed on the new Trademarks Bill, the revamped Patents Bill will require only a “few small changes,” Mr. Panton said. A patent is typically referred to as a set period, defined in legislation, in which other individuals are excluded from making, selling or using someone’s invention.
“The focus is … to allow access by local persons to the international patent system,” the minister said. “This access, through what is known as the Patents Cooperation Treaty, would allow entities in the Cayman Islands to apply for patent protection in more than 140 countries,” Mr. Panton said.
Upgrades to local copyright legislation have already been dealt with via the extension last month of the copyright portion of the U.K.’s 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to the Cayman Islands.
However, Mr. Panton said the new copyright regime will not take effect for at least another six months to allow the government to conduct a public education campaign about what is required under the new legislation.
Previously, enforcement of alleged copyright infringements in Cayman was based on a version of the U.K. 1956 Copyright Act extended to the Cayman Islands and written at a time when the Internet, computer software development, and international television broadcasting, among other things, did not exist.
There have been recent consequences for Cayman not having a modern copyright and intellectual property rights regime, Minister Panton gave one example in which U.S.-based cable network Home Box Office had filed a complaint with the U.S. trade representative concerning what the broadcaster alleged was theft of some of its channels by a Cayman Islands cable broadcaster. Mr. Panton said that complaint could affect Cayman’s application to be accepted as one of the Caribbean Basin Initiative countries by the U.S. That initiative, which is essentially a trade agreement, would allow – among other things – U.S. citizens who visit Cayman for business conferences to get tax write-offs for the trip.
Mr. Panton said many companies registered and operating in Cayman use subsidiary companies in other jurisdictions to protect intellectual property rights. “We’re losing the opportunity to provide that service here,” he said. “And if they have to go elsewhere, they’re exposed to other jurisdictions and what they may have to offer.”
“By modernizing Cayman’s intellectual property standards, our economy will become even more attractive to foreign investment,” Mr. Panton said. “We have an opportunity to see technology-based businesses flourish in Cayman.”