New laws ‘modernize’ trademark, design rights

New protections for trademarks, design rights and patents passed through second readings in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, part of the Commerce Ministry’s years-long push to modernize intellectual property protections in the Cayman Islands.

The Trade Marks Law will create a new trademarks registry in the Cayman Islands instead of requiring trademarks to be registered in the United Kingdom and extended to Cayman. The Design Rights Registration Law creates a new class of intellectual property in Cayman, allowing product designs registered in the U.K. and Europe to be extended to Cayman Islands.

The changes to the islands’ patent rules make it illegal to try to enforce patent claims “in bad faith,” an effort to prevent “patent trolls” who use lawsuits to try to enforce overly broad patents. Patents are still registered in the U.K. before being extended to the Cayman Islands.

“These rights are highly valued,” Commerce Minister Wayne Panton told the Legislative Assembly before the design rights proposal passed unanimously. “With a digital economy, you need strong intellectual property,” he added.

Design rights protect the unique look of a product, such as the design of the Apple iPad, in the same way trademark protects a symbol, like the Nike swoosh.

Mr. Panton told members of the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday that based on conversations with intellectual property experts in the U.K. and with attorneys here, “There has been a marked increase in interest in design rights.”

He said the new program to extend design rights from the U.K. and Europe “showed promise in terms of interest and business for the Cayman Islands.”

One of the big changes for trademarks, Mr. Panton said, is that “Cayman” is currently trademarked in the U.K. and makes it difficult for any businesses to use the word “Cayman” in a trademark business name.

Sophie Davies, an intellectual property attorney with HSM, helped write the bills for government. These new laws, she said, have been years in the making.

The new laws still need to pass the mostly pro-forma third reading to become law. Ms. Davies said she hopes the new laws will come into effect early next year.

Cayman’s government approved new copyright rules last year; they came into effect this year, extending the United Kingdom’s Copyright Act to replace Cayman’s rules that dated to 1956.