1 May 2015Jurisdiction reportsErienne Romero and Christopher Coye

Business brief 2015: Belize


How do you register or secure patent rights, and is national or international coverage most appropriate?

Patent rights are enforceable by the Patents Act of Belize. Patent protection in Belize is secured by filing successful national patent applications and/or national phase Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications with the Belize Intellectual Property Office (BELIPO). Applicants may also claim priority based on an earlier registration filed in, or for, a country which is party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, or any member of the World Trade Organization.

Once any patent application is lodged with BELIPO, there are various timelines that should be noted by the applicant. Within the first week of the date of application, BELIPO issues the filing date stamp for national patent applications meeting filing requirements; for PCT applications that meet the necessary entry requirements, a confirmation of national entry is issued. Within 30 months of receipt of the application for national patents, BELIPO may issue either an examination action which applies in cases where objections are raised in respect of patentability, or a notice of grant of patent. If the latter occurs, the patent registration certificate will be issued forthwith to the applicant.

What are the costs of obtaining a patent?

The official fee for filing a patent application is $500, which includes the examination fees, first year annuity fee and publication of grant in the Belize Intellectual Property Journal. A patent is maintained by paying annual renewal fees to BELIPO before the anniversary of filing, and payment must be accompanied by a renewal letter or email. Renewal fees increase gradually for each subsequent year, up to $1,000 in the 20th year.

Where can you find information on existing patents in your jurisdiction?

The bi-monthly Intellectual Property Journal is published electronically by BELIPO on its official website at www.belipo.bz. Applicants may refer to the e-publications in order to check the status of a patent application. There is also a search option on the website where a comprehensive search request may be requested for a relatively low fee.

Is there anything unusual about the patent law(s) that companies should be aware of? What are the most common mistakes businesses make?

Rather than being unusual, Belize’s patent law was specifically established to ensure Belize’s compliance with the the TRIPS Agreement, agreement, to which Belize as a country is bound.

What are the key threats to patent owners, and what is the best strategy if you suspect someone is infringing your patent?

Patent disputes are not common in Belize. In fact, Belizean courts have not heard any cases in relation to patent infringement or patent opposition to date. It is safe to say that the patent law and the protection it affords have not been effectively exercised in these aspects. Nevertheless, if it is discovered that a patent is being used by a third party without proper authorisation (ie, licence or sub-licence agreements), patent owners should consult their IP attorney in Belize and request, in the minimum, that a cease-and-desist letter be delivered to the infringing party. Furthermore, we would encourage patent owners to maintain their patents by paying the prescribed annual fee in order to avoid a lapsed patent. It should be noted that a lapsed patent may be restored only by re-registration, which results in unnecessary costs for the patent owner.


How do you register or secure trademark rights, and what protection do they grant?

Trademark rights are secured by filing a successful trademark application at BELIPO. Trademark rights promote and provide protection of genuine products and services, and through civil and even criminal sanction, deter discriminating third parties, namely counterfeiters, from flooding the local market with inferior products and services which would, in fact, be detrimental to the distinctiveness of the protected mark.

"Sales of counterfeit goods are explicit and quite abundant in local stores throughout Belize. Trademark owners are not vigilant in pursuing cases of trademark infringement."

Although trademarks may be afforded protection through prolonged use or the renowned nature of the mark, it is still advisable to register the mark so as to provide prima facie evidence of the validity of the original registration of the mark.

Trademark applicants should request that preliminary trademark searches are conducted in order to avoid oppositions from third parties and/or the registrar of trademarks. In Belize, classification is determined using the 10th edition of the Nice Classification. Applicants should try to follow the guidelines and remarks set out in the classification so as to avoid official actions relating to improper classification.

What are the costs of registering and defending a trademark?

If there are no third party oppositions or office actions filed, official costs for registration of a mark range from $212.50, for one mark in one international class, to $362.50, for one mark in five international classes. Multiclass applications are permitted under the Belize trademark law, but are restricted to five international classes per application.

Trademark oppositions often vary in complexity and the costs for such proceedings are billed according to time spent.

What are the key threats to trademark owners and what is the best strategy for dealing with infringement?

Importation and sales of counterfeit goods and infringement of trademarks, by using identical or similar marks, by discerning third parties are the key threats trademark owners face in Belize. Several factors contribute to the dangers that exist for trademark owners. These dangers include, but are not limited to, Belize’s proximity to countries that are major producers of counterfeit goods, and frequent fluctuations experienced within the economic and financial sectors which, advertently, drive consumers to purchase inferior products for cost-saving purposes.

Trademark owners should ensure that their marks are filed and registered at BELIPO, as registration grants exclusive rights to the owners which will further strengthen infringement cases against third party competitors. If legal action is certain, trademark owners should consult their legal counsel in Belize on the best strategy to pursue.

What are the most common mistakes trademark owners make?

Sales of counterfeit goods are explicit and quite abundant in local stores throughout Belize. Trademark owners are not vigilant in pursuing cases of trademark infringement. Another mistake revolves around trademarks that are not used within the first five years of registration. These marks are consequently at risk of cancellation which weakens any future proceeding against third party infringements.

Have there been any changes to the trademarks law(s) in the last 12 months?

There has been no major change in the trademark law within the last year. However, Practice Direction No. 1 of 2011 was published on the BELIPO website, informing trademark attorneys, trademark owners and the general public that the 10th edition of the Nice Classification was effective as of January 1, 2012.


How big a problem is counterfeiting in your jurisdiction? What industries are particularly at threat?

Importation and sales of counterfeit goods are offences that occur daily. Belizeans are major consumers of counterfeit goods found in industries such as apparel, entertainment, software, games, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes and consumer electronics.

What are the best strategies for dealing with the problem?

When the problem arises, trademark owners should consult their trademark attorney immediately in order to ascertain which methods are available to the owner to enforce their rights. A cease-and-desist letter requesting that the offender secures the destruction of the infringing goods or materials is usually the first action that trademark owners consider. If a cease-and-desist letter proves to be ineffective, the Comptroller of Customs may be notified of the ongoing infringement so it may, in turn, use its power to seize any counterfeit goods and/or infringing products entering the country. The trademark owner may also apply for the delivery up of material or infringing goods for purposes of destruction, subject to certain time limitations. Legal process may also be undertaken for trademark infringement.

Erienne Romero is an IP and corporate officer at  Courtenay Coye. She can be contacted at: eromero@courtenaycoye.com

Christopher Coye is managing partner at Courtenay Coye. He can be contacted at:  ccoye@courtenaycoye.com

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