The Maldives has no legislation that has been enacted in terms of Intellectual Property Rights. To circumvent this, there is sufficient trademark protection that has been offered by way of acquiring public recognition through cautionary notices. The Maldives has seen good economic growth in areas like tourism, fisheries, trade, and construction and there is sufficient talent in the market which would require the Government to further promulgate a law to protect the interests of not only the people but also the country at large and to contribute towards the economic growth of the country and promote international trade and commerce. Once a legislation has been put in place, the local talent can seek protection for their rights in goods and services being marketed and be able to ensure that there are no counterfeit goods being sold in the market (whether national/international) and to make a distinction between the goods and services. There would also be a generation of employment opportunities for the masses. In any field, one would require IP rights to be safeguarded not just for the local artisans and their talents but in every other avenue and it is therefore important that a law is enacted in accordance with the same.
In the Maldives, any legal dispute that arises is settled by way of Common law. The Ministry of Economic Development established an Intellectual Property Unit in 2007 in order to educate the masses regarding various aspects of IP rights. The Copyright and Related Rights Act was passed in October 2010 and became effective in April 2011. Apart from cautionary notices, the Ministry is working on enacting legislation on Maldives Trademarks Law, Geographical Indications Law, and Industrial Property Rights. The Maldives also benefits from the World Trade Organization which provides protection under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. Furthermore, the Maldives Government is also seeking assistance from the World Intellectual Property Organization to develop such IPR laws and regulations. There has been a high demand for copyright protection due to the high rise in registrations of copyright works. Trademarks and service marks are most popular IP rights in the Maldives. The Industrial property rights are also important which aims to protect minor inventions i.e. inventions which do not cover patentability. There is also a need for protection of Trade Secrets under IP rights especially amongst various enterprises and business entities. The protection of intellectual property is sought by the publication of cautionary notices in newspapers and journals which have such wide circulation in the markets. These cautionary notices are a warning to third parties against the use of such marks which may result in an infringement and to not continue with such use. There are many countries like Myanmar, Saudi Arabia that recognize cautionary notices as a way to inform third parties of a specific entity's rights over its marks. The cautionary notice would state, whether it is a trademark, copyright, design or patent, the details of the proprietor and the description of the IP. The cautionary notice may be published for individual classes or for multiple classes and the time involved for acquiring such protection under this notice would generally take 3-4 weeks' time. The NICE classification of goods and services will apply. The publication fee may vary depending on the length of the cautionary notice.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the Maldives is a small market due to its economy and population, its trade sector is fairly well regulated. To facilitate a free and fair trade of goods and services in the market, the legislation on IPR must be enacted. It is also important that Maldives becomes a member of the relevant International treaties like Paris Convention which provides for protection under industrial property, Madrid Agreement and Protocol for registration of international marks, Lisbon Agreement for the protection of appellations of origin and their international registration, Berne Convention for literary and artistic works and The Hague Agreement for international registration for industrial designs. With the role of Foreign Direct Investment in the Maldives and with several various countries having a direct entry into the market, there has been substantial growth in the economy and it has further created many employment opportunities. To aid economic growth and competitiveness in the market, IPR laws need to be in place for any country.
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.