Trinidad and Tobago: Intellectual Property Legislation Update - M. Hamel

Last Updated: 7 May 1998
The rapid liberalisation of Trinidad and Tobago's economy has created significant business opportunities and made it important for many more foreign businesses to secure their valuable intellectual property rights in Trinidad and Tobago.

As part of this process, Trinidad & Tobago signed the Trade Mark Law Treaty (TLT) in October 1994, the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPs) Agreement and entered into a Bilateral Agreement with the Government of the U.S. concerning the protection of Intellectual Property Rights.

To comply with governmental obligations under these agreements, nine pieces of Intellectual Property legislation were proclaimed into law in December 1997.

The Trade marks (amendment) act 1996 amends the law extensively. The most significant features include:

  • a reduction in the duration of registration from 14 years to 10 years from the date of registration, with renewal within 6 months of expiry for further unlimited periods of 10 years;
  • protection of well-known trade marks;
  • strengthening of rights granted to proprietors by registration in preventing infringements of registered marks;
  • widening of the definition of a trade mark to include the packaging of goods or their shape provided the trade mark does not exclusively consist of the shape which results from the nature of the goods themselves.

Priority applications are received provided they are filed within six (6) months of filing in a conventions country.

The Trade marks (amendment) act 1997 provides for amendments to the existing law. The most important include:

  • abolition of the offences in respect of falsification of entries on the register and falsely representing a trade mark as registered; and
  • the introduction of provisions in respect of the monitoring, control and powers of the Customs and Excise Division in dealing with infringing goods.

The registered owner and (in special circumstances) the registered user of a trade mark may give to the Comptroller of Customs and Excise notice of an objection to any importation of goods manufactured outside Trinidad and Tobago that infringe its trade mark.

On receipt of this notice, the Comptroller has the power to:

  • order the seizure of the imported goods; and
  • request the importer to produce documentation relating to the goods and to supply information about the party by and to whom the goods were consigned once satisfied that the use of a trademark in relation to the imported goods is fraudulent.

If an importer intentionally or recklessly fails to comply with such a request within a given period, he will be guilty of an offence and may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to six months.

The Protection Against Unfair Competition Act, 1996 regulates unfair competition and trade secrets within a commercial or industrial setting. It codifies, to a large extent, the common law principles in relation to the torts of breach of confidence and passing-off and substantially extends the form of relief available by an action for passing-off. The Act is expected to further encourage international businesses to establish themselves and compete in Trinidad & Tobago.

The criteria within the industrial or commercial sphere against which unfair competition will be measured include acts or practices:

  • that cause or are likely to cause confusion regarding another's enterprise, especially with respect to products or services offered by that enterprise;
  • that are likely to damage goodwill or reputation regardless of whether such acts or practices cause confusion;
  • that can mislead the public; and
  • those that can discredit another's enterprise or activities.

The Geographical Indications Act, 1996 is intended to provide protection to geographical indications that are used to designate a product that originates from a particular region and whose quality, reputation or characteristics are essentially attributable to that region, and other related matters.

A number of exclusions exist and these are not afforded protection under the Act, e.g. those geographical indications that do not correspond to the definition within the Act, and those which have fallen into disuse in their country of origin.

The Patents Act 1996 significantly changes the previous patent system both as to procedure and substantive law. Inventions must now satisfy the criteria of novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability.

The standard for determining novelty is based on universal novelty and must not form part of the 'state of the art' criteria. An invention is deemed to involve an inventive step once it is not obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art. The period of protection of a patent under this Act is twenty (20) years without the possibility of extension.

The Act makes provision for the issue of a utility certificate which affords protection to an owner of a useful innovation who may otherwise be unable to meet the strict requirements to obtain a patent certificate. As a result of Trinidad & Tobago's accession to the Patent Co-operation Treaty, PCT applications may now be filed.

The Copyright Act, 1997 protects literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works irrespective of their mode or form of expression, as well as their content, quality and purpose provided that such works are original. Protection is also afforded to computer software and databases.

The Act extends the right of copyright owners. It also widens the definition of copyright previously existing under the 1985 Act to include specific reference to works of 'mas'. The duration of copyright protection has been increased in the majority of works from 50 to 75 years. The new law also provides increased financial penalties and terms of imprisonment for violation of copyright.

The Industrial Designs Act, 1996 revises the law relating to the protection of designs. The significant features in this Act include the addition of the aesthetic quality to the definition of "design" and the exclusion from protection of any feature in the design engineered to obtain exclusively a technical result.

Designs are afforded protection provided they satisfy the requirements of universal novelty and conformity with public order and morality. The Act, however, permits a grace period of one year preceding filing should disclosure of the design occur within this period.

Priority may be claimed provided an application for the same industrial design is filed within six months of filing in a conventions country. The period of protection is 5 years from the date of the filing, and renewal for two further 5 year periods is permissible upon payment of the statutory fee.

The Layout-Designs (Topographies) of Integrated Circuits Act, 1996 protects layout-designs of integrated circuits against reproduction, importation, sale or other distribution in a commercial setting. The term of protection is 10 years calculated either from the date of first commercial exploitation or in the absence of such, from the filing date.

The Protection of New Plant Varieties Act 1997 provides protection in the form of plant breeders rights in respect of new plant varieties and related matters. Protection is afforded to a variety under the Act provided it is new, distinct, uniform and stable. There are three separate periods of protection relative to different species of plants ranging from eighteen years to twenty-five years.

Editor's Note: Further information on the Intellectual Property regime in Trinidad & Tobago is available from our website - Please Click Contact Link

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
Accounting and Audit
Anti-trust/Competition Law
Consumer Protection
Corporate/Commercial Law
Criminal Law
Employment and HR
Energy and Natural Resources
Environment
Family and Matrimonial
Finance and Banking
Food, Drugs, Healthcare, Life Sciences
Government, Public Sector
Immigration
Insolvency/Bankruptcy, Re-structuring
Insurance
Intellectual Property
International Law
Law Practice Management
Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration
Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
Privacy
Real Estate and Construction
Strategy
Tax
Transport
Wealth Management
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.