Sir Turtle first brand protected under new Trade Marks Law

The Cayman Islands government on Tuesday celebrated the commencement of the new Trade Marks Law, which has been touted as necessary for overhauling the territory’s intellectual property legal framework.

The first to brand under the new law were the Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways, which filed to protect the Sir Turtle logo.

Suzy Soto, who created the image in 1963 and sold it to the Department of Tourism several years later for $1, said at the Tuesday morning press conference, “I do a lot of artwork and I don’t feel like I’m a worthy artist … this today shocked me. I’m really shocked and honored. This has been so near and dear to my heart.”

The main change to the trademark regime was aimed at allowing local businesses to more easily register their brands.

Previously, any company seeking to register a trademark had to first go through the United Kingdom or European Union registration process. If the same brands were already registered in those jurisdictions, then local businesses would be out of luck.

“Government has long heard the concerns of business owners and local creative persons who wanted to protect their work,” said Financial Services Minister Tara Rivers. “Now, we can offer them the tools to do so.”

The new law has already led to a major uptick in trademark registrations, with more than 150 brands filing applications since the law went into effect on Aug. 1, according to government. Typically, the Register of Patents and Trademarks only receives about 300 applications in an entire given year.

Registry officials at the conference did not have the exact figures for how many new trademarks have been filed by local companies versus international corporations, but said that the first six applications were filed by local entities.

The new legislation also provides businesses a way to use their trademarks to obtain loans from financial institutions.

“You can now take your trademark to the bank and cash it, and get a loan from the bank,” a Registry official said at the press conference. “The banks are willing to do it now because you have a securities register where you can register the trademark as a security owned by the bank.”

The new legislation should create more local employment opportunities, said Dax Basdeo, chief officer for the Ministry of Financial Services and Home Affairs.

“As persons exercise their rights to protect their intellectual property against infringement from others, they will need Cayman-based agents and counsel to assist with this process,” he said. “This new field of employment may be small, but it will strengthen the attractiveness of our jurisdiction to global businesses that want to make sure they have a strong international portfolio of protected intellectual property.”

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