Panama at the forefront of Industrial and Intellectual Property Law
February 26, 2013
It’s hard to surprise people these days. “Generation Y” is characterized by a defiant, challenging, questioning attitude towards everything and everyone. Above all else, however, it is a generation that has developed under the influence of the internet. The availability of information and general skepticism towards the ordinary have encouraged individuals and companies to maximize their creativity, so as not to pass unnoticed in a market saturated with competitors. It is within this environment that industrial and intellectual property law holds vital importance.
Given that inventiveness has become a key element in industrial and intellectual policies, as evidenced by the direct link between technological and commercial leadership on the one hand, and the production of patents and trademarks on the other, industrial and intellectual property violations frequently transcend borders and necessitate both international and domestic efforts to promote a safe environment in which industry can flourish. Recognizing this dynamic, and with the aim of presenting itself as a nation that supports and promotes global economic development, the Republic of Panama issued Acts 61, 63 and 64 in October 2012. These Acts reformed the existing regulations of industrial and intellectual property, protection of plant varieties and copyright.
Act 61 of October 5th, 2012
This innovative Act focuses on three primary aspects of industrial and intellectual property law, namely the speed of the process, substantive aspects and protection.
To improve the process, the General Direction for the Registry of Industrial Property (DIGERPI) has facilitated the use of electronic and telematic means to submit requests and check records. It enables digital signatures, and, for the purpose of expediting notification procedures, establishes the appointment of a local domicile for applicants with a foreign domicile. The law also sets forth regulations concerning powers of attorney, and allows for reference to the registry number in place of having to file a new power of attorney for future requests from the same owner.
Substantively, the law more precisely defines those goods and services that cannot be the object of protection, including specific works and technical or scientific names. In addition, it provides for the processing of international patent applications for inventions or utility models, regulates non-voluntary licenses for patent exploitation, and adds the possibility of suspending the registration of the trademark process.
Finally, Act 61 deals with the consequences and penalties of infringement by extending the framework for behaviors that constitute abuse, increasing the fines incurred for such violations, and granting the trademark owner the right to prevent third parties from adopting or using the trademark as a domain name or e-mail address.
Act 63 of October 5th, 2012
The main intention of Act 63 is to clarify the rights of breeders. In this respect, the Act expands the concept of a breeder to include as beneficiaries the nationals of any State which, without being member of the International Union for the Protection of Plant varieties, grants effective protection to Panamanian nationals.
Secondly, Act 63 broadens the scope of protection of breeder’s rights, covering the production, reproduction, repair, offer for sale, marketing, importation and possession of the plant variety, as well as the handling of the product of the harvest.
As its third point, the law includes exceptions to breeder’s rights, specifying which acts shall be included under the legislative protection. In this respect, a form of interim protection for breeders has been added, so that a breeder may safeguard his interest during the interval between the publication of the application and the granting of the right.
Lastly, the Act incorporates the expiration of breeders’ rights with their respective causes.
Act 64 of October 10th, 2012:
One of the most significant aspects of this law is that it increases the length of time in which an author (i.e. his heirs or beneficiaies) may protect his economic rights in a work, extending the term from 50 to 70 years after the author’s death.
Secondly, the Act amends and augments the applicable sanctions and criminal offenses for violations of the law, in order to make the overall framework of protection more robust. In furtherance of this purpose, Act 64 inserts a chapter relating to border control measures, curtailing the import, export and transit of works that infringe copyright law. It also empowers the implementation of mechanisms, systems or technical devices to prevent any unauthorized use of works, and increases the amount of fines for copyright infringement.
Finally, this law restates the aspects of copyright protection in a more systematic manner and clarifies subjects which had previously gone without regulation; it extends the concept of reproduction, so as to encompass any form or procedure known or as yet unknown of obtaining copies of the whole or part of a work; it incorporates as lawful communications those which take place in a research institution or for research purposes only and without any pecuniary interest; it allows the reproduction, broadcast, or public transmission of works of fine art, photographic works and works of art permanently located in public places (including the exterior of the buildings); it authorizes the reproduction, distribution, or communication of a work when made exclusively for security purposes; it allows for quotations from lawfully published works when they indicate the name of the author and the source of the information; and it incorporates chapters concerning music publishing, broadcasting and phonographic contracts.
Although these Acts were developed in response to the increased number of goods and services in international trade protected by intellectual property rights, their enactment only constitutes the first step. It now depends upon the astute regulation of each one of these laws, with the goal of developing their content as well as securing their observance, so that Panama may remain at the forefront of this crucial and ever-growing area. Rules and regulations consonant with the reality of the world we live in today—a society in which knowledge, technology, creativity and innovation dominate—are vital for the development not only of a country, but of the world.