30 October 2012

Caribbean IP Part 13: Dominican Republic

ISO 3166 country code: DO.

The Dominican Republic is the second largest country (in terms of both population and area) in the Caribbean after Cuba. It is an economic power in the Caribbean region.

In IP it is a member of important international treaties such as the Berne Convention, Paris Convention, Patent Cooperation Treaty and WIPO Convention.

It is also a member of the UPOV Convention, the International Union for the protection of new varieties of plants. This was a mandatory requirement for the Dominican Republic when it became party to the 'Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement' ("CAFTA-DR"), a free trade agreement which includes the United States.

There are a number of other intellectual property provisions within this agreement including that members "shall make all reasonable efforts to ratify or accede to" inter alia the Hague System for designs and the Madrid Protocol for trade marks. With such unassertive language it may come as little surprise that none of the member states have joined the Hague System and just one (the United States) has joined the Madrid Protocol.

The National Office of Intellectual Property (its Spanish acronym ONAPI) administers IP rights in the Dominican Republic, their website being available in Spanish only. I can, however, establish that it is possible to undertake identical trade mark searches on-line. There also appear to be on-line filing facilities (and there is a resolution in relation to electronic filings), although the web pages were not working for me when I tried.

The Dominican Republic used to be one of the quirkier trade mark jurisdictions around. I remember when it used to have its own classification system and you could choose your registration term (between 5 and 20 years) which caused record-keeping headaches, particularly for databases that liked to auto-calculate renewal dates. In recent times, things have become far more straightforward and the Office works effectively, a short opposition period helping trade mark applications, in smooth cases, mature to registration quickly.

The CAFTA-DR agreement will continue to see pressure from the United States for the Dominican Republic to join the Madrid Protocol. Costa Rica is anticipated to be the first (other than the US, of course) to come on board the Protocol and once they join perhaps there will be a domino effect with the other member countries.