Trademarks in the British Virgin Islands
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Anguilla and the Caribbean jurisdictions are taking deliberate steps to strengthen the IP legislative framework and protection services.
In April this year, I spoke with the Anguilla intellectual property registrar, T. Lanston Connor and the intellectual property officer, Jemmisa Graneau-Gumbs. We discussed the current operations and future goals at the Anguilla IP office and possible changes to IP legislation in Anguilla. It was evident that Anguilla is paying close attention to the importance of IP protection in the region to ensure effective enforcement of IP rights and anti-counterfeit measures.
The trademark practice in Anguilla and other Caribbean jurisdictions is unique in that in the smaller Caribbean jurisdictions the filings are manual and a physical presence is required at the intellectual property office to conduct business. These manual jurisdictions still operate under legislation that needs updating. Some Caribbean countries have significantly modified their trademark legislative framework, and others are taking extra steps to improve their IP offices and strengthen their legislation.
Even outside of the implementation of new legislation, Anguilla has made changes to encourage a more seamless way of registering trademarks with the recent establishment of an IP office separate from the Companies Registry.
Below I outline some of my questions and the answers from the Registry:
What is the usual processing time for new trademark applications?
New trademark applications are processed immediately and are sent to the Official Gazette by the end of the month in which they are received. These applications are then advertised for a month to allow for objections. At the end of the advertisement period, the new applications are processed within the first week of the new month. This whole process usually takes six weeks to two months, depending on the date that they are submitted to the Registry. Barring any unforeseen issues, clients should expect to have their certificates in hand no later than three months after their filing date.
Anguilla has made changes to encourage a more seamless way of registering trademarks with the recent establishment of an IP office separate from the Companies Registry.
Is there a backlog of files pending processing?
Much of the purpose for establishing the IP office apart from the Companies registry was to have a space focused on IP to increase efficiency and rid the Registry of a backlog. Most of the outstanding documents here currently are completed and awaiting collection, or require further documentation in order to be issued.
Does the Registry issue paper office actions or objections? If not how are agents notified of filing deficiencies?
The registry does issue paper office actions and objections. When issues are identified, we immediately notify agents by phone or email.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic era and other ongoing world issues, has there been a change in the level of trademark applications being filed?
There has been an increase in filings since COVID-19 but we believe that with the launch of this new IP-dedicated office which will focus on marketing to potential IP clients via IP-dedicated social media pages and other channels, Anguilla has positioned itself to exponentially grow its IP reach and revenue.
Is the registry’s database for storing and processing applications internally online or manual?
The registry’s database is used as an internal digital copy of the IP register. It is mostly used for searches and for storing data related to applications. Our database is in need of a clean-up and some upgrades. The IP officer has initiated this process, and we are hoping to get some additional staff and support this year to speed it up.
Does the registry have plans to implement a filing system for customers and staff to access?
We have made a bit of progress on this front as we have held consultations with a team of programmers that were building a prototype system and we recently began consultations with governmental stakeholders who are looking to assist with an online system for IP registration and a repository for copyrights.
How far is the registry from having a public online filing?
We hope to have an online system for IP available within the next two or three years.
Has the registry considered proposals for possible legislative changes?
We will be making some legislative changes via consultations with a working group of stakeholders.
The time spent at Anguilla IP office highlighted the increased awareness of the need to improve efficiency and modernise the IP system. It is fair to predict that over the next few years we may see legislative changes and an online, upgraded process implemented.
Keesha Fleming Lake is a registered US attorney and Caribbean attorney. She can be contacted at: email@example.com
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