With an updated law governing copyright that came into force earlier this year, government published a suite of new laws and amendments last week to update trademark, design rights and patent rules.
The Trade Marks Bill creates a new trademark registry in Cayman that would replace the current system which requires trademarks to be registered in the United Kingdom and then extended to the Cayman Islands.
The Design Rights Bill would create new protections for designs and allow designs registered in the U.K. or the EU to be extended to Cayman.
Sophie Davies, an intellectual property attorney with HSM, said design rights protect “a new and novel look” for a product, giving as an example the way the Apple iPad is designed. It “protects appearance,” she said, the same way trademark protects a symbol like the Nike swoosh.
Ms. Davies helped draft the bills that are expected to go before the Legislative Assembly at the next session. She said the new trademark rules will “cut out the middleman” and local companies will no longer have to go through the U.K. to register. The set local rules will also make international companies more comfortable with the protection of their trademarks in the Cayman Islands, she said.
“It’s very rare to have to go to another country to get protection,” she said.
Commerce Minister Wayne Panton said the Trade Marks Bill will “ensure we have better control over local trademark protections,” and will give “better options for local trademark owners.”
Trademarks already registered through the U.K. will not need to re-register under the proposed law.
Regarding design rights, Ms. Davies said, the bill proposes to “introduce a middleman where we didn’t have anything before,” allowing registered designs in the U.K. and the EU to be extended to Cayman, similar to the way patents and trademarks work now.
Mr. Panton said design rights are a “significant growing trend in the U.K.”
These new bills, the minister said, are “part of the plan to modernize intellectual property laws in Cayman.”
Amendment proposals to Cayman’s patent rules, published with the other new bills, aim to stop frivolous patent lawsuits, a phenomenon known as “patent trolling.”
The amendments specifically outlaw making claims for “patent infringement in bad faith.” The proposal further states that Cayman’s courts will not recognize court rulings on patents in other jurisdictions that were made in bad faith.
Patent trolling has become a problem in the United States, especially in the tech sector. Companies will buy or file broad patents and profit from threatening or suing small tech companies. In one widely cited example, a company called Lodsys, which does not make any actual products or offer services, targets smartphone app developers and says it has a patent on the technology to make purchases within an app.
The Financial Times reported recently that patent trolls accounted for about two-thirds of patent lawsuits filed in the U.S. last year. The newspaper notes that the U.K.’s rules requiring defendants who lose a lawsuit to pay the attorney fees for the other party have helped curtail patent suits. But, the Times reports, a new European Unified Patent Court is set to begin its work next year and has some lawyers in the EU concerned that companies there could face a wave of new patent claims.