3 February 2012

Cayman Islands - trade mark developments commentary

There have been recent developments in the regulations surrounding trade marks in the Cayman Islands.

The developments will not change much for some trade mark owners. It will have its most notable impact on trade mark owners who use an agent or specialist annuity payment provider based outside the Cayman Islands who have previously been dealing with the General Registry directly. They will now need to use a local agent which will raise costs. Caymanian agents are not particularly cheap and this is not surprising as the Cayman Islands enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean; the islands are a key international financial centre and luxury tourist destination.

In my experience, having an agent on the ground in the Cayman Islands is not a bad thing. The General Registry has had issues with resources and a local agent is able to go to the Registry and help out physically; something not available to non-resident agents.

The new legislation also requires a stricter requirement on the payment of annuities although it remains to see if the Registrar will be equipped enough to proactively cancel trade mark registrations for failure to pay annuities ex officio.

The law appears to maintain the current requirement to have a UK, Community or International Registration designating the UK to form the basis of a local Cayman Islands application. This will be a disappointment to some, particularly for trade mark owners with little need for UK/European protection which they will need to get in advance. This is an obvious disadvantage to local Cayman Islands applicants.

It also maintains the Cayman Islands as one of the most expensive trade mark jurisdictions in the world, especially considering it is a deposit registry. Even taking away the need to obtain registration in the UK or EU (this could be needed by a business anyway), it is the annual fees that ramp up the costs in the Cayman Islands. It is not clear if the fees will change under the new legislation, but presuming they remain the same, a three class registration will cost $4390.20 in official fees to obtain and maintain in force for its first 10-year term - and this is without the agents fees on top. It is hoped it will still be possible to bulk pay the annual fees up to the next renewal date as this can go some way to reducing the agents fees as well as reducing the administrative burden.

With an estimated population of only 55,000, the Cayman Islands do not represent the best value trade mark jurisdiction out there. When you require protection here, be sure to budget accordingly.