26 October 2012

Caribbean IP Part 12: Dominica

ISO 3166 country code: DM.

Dominica is not to be confused with the Dominican Republic. It is an English-speaking island, albeit one where a number of the population speak a French Patois, compared to the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. Dominca is sometimes referred to as the Commonwealth of Dominica to distinguish it from the Dominican Republic. The locals are referred to as Dominicans, with the stress on the second 'i' to distinguish them from the Dominicans of the Dominican Republic where the stress is on the first 'i'.

Dominica is party to the most common IP treaties, namely, the Berne Convention, Nice Agreement, Paris Convention, Patent Cooperation Treaty and WIPO Convention.

The Companies and Intellectual Property Office, a department of the Ministry of Tourism and Legal Affairs, administers IP rights in Dominica. Unfortunately, there is no information on intellectual property on their website aside from the Office's contact details.

Formerly, Dominica operated a dual trade mark registration system allowing local (substantive) applications using the former British classification system or for extension of UK registered rights. This was commonplace amongst some of the Caribbean islands (and the system still operates in the British Virgin Islands). However, it now has a purely independent trade mark law using the International classification. As of yet though, Dominica has yet to join the Madrid Protocol - as has been the case in Antigua and Barbuda. Dominica may find itself under pressure from the EU and US to join the Madrid Protocol but this should make registering a trade mark in Dominica more attractive to foreign brand owners and could increase investment in Dominica.

Independent design protection is available in Dominica. The United Kingdom Designs (Protection) Act - allowing for automatic protection of UK Registered Designs - was repealed in 1998.

Dominica is one of the poorer islands of the region; being volcanic and with less beaches than its neighbours, tourism has been less developed although eco-tourism is now a developing industry. However, the island now has good trade mark and design laws in place and Madrid Protocol membership would be welcomed. Bringing in additional revenue to the IP Office may enable it to develop a more sophisticated web presence.

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