19 October 2012

Caribbean IP Part 10: Cuba

ISO 3166 country code: CU.

The Republic of Cuba is the largest and most populous of all the island nations of the Caribbean. It comprises nearly the whole of the island of Cuba except the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base which is perpetually leased to the United States despite the lack of diplomatic recognition bestowed to Cuba by the US Government.

A single-party communist state that can find itself somewhat isolated, it could be considered surprising that Cuba involves itself in international IP circles being a member of a number of treaties including the Berne Convention, Madrid Agreement and Protocol, Nairobi Treaty, Paris Convention, Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Lisbon, Locarno and Nice Agreements.

The Cuban Industrial Property Office administers registered IP rights in the country. Their website is only available in Spanish. However, Cuba was one of the first members of the Madrid Protocol in 1996, some time before Spanish was added as an official language in April 2004.

Unfortunately, my Spanish is limited but it is clear the site contains information on the three main IP rights (patents, designs, trade marks). Typical for a communist nation, representatives must be registered with the Office and in Cuba there is a choice of just five firms. To be fair this is an improvement if we go back to the 1980s and compare to former Communist states such as the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic where foreigners had a choice of just one and two Government-approved IP agencies respectively.

Cuba allows the registration of trade marks and designs through a national route. For trade marks, as stated above, International applications through both the Madrid Agreement and Protocol are possible. For the Protocol, Cuba has made a declaration under Rule 34(3)(a) that it wishes to receive Individual fees in two parts (you may well be more familiar with this requirement with respect to designations of Japan).

Cuba seems an enthusiastic member of the 'international IP community' and it also provides IP support and guidance to local businesses. Despite this, International applications originating from Cuba total just 37 in the last 8 years. This may be unsurprising given the economic situation in Cuba. The country also has work to do on improving the efficiency and operations of its IP Office with delays being a regular occurrence. These are often not helped by unresponsive agents but as Cuba (very) slowly opens up more to the West, we can hope for improvements.

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