5 October 2012

Caribbean IP Part 6: Belize

ISO 3166 country code: BZ.

Belize is a country of Central America but being a former British possession, as British Honduras, is often linked with the Caribbean region. Spanish is a widely spoken language in this linguistically diverse country and Guatemala holds territorial claims to Belize meaning it sits at the crossroads between the West Indies and Central America.

The Belize Intellectual Property Office (BELIPO) administers IP rights in Belize. They have a bold mission statement, "To build a modern intellectual property system that values and protects the vibrant creative culture of Belize." Their website is a dedicated resource to IP and provides for on-line filings of trade marks and industrial designs and it also publishes its Intellectual Property Journal on-line.

Belize has made significant strides in developing its IP legislation this century with new legislation introduced for trade marks, industrial designs and patents in 2000. Before this date, I can recall the former trade marks law requiring a UK registration to obtain local registration. In those days, applications could be made direct to the General Registry and I recall that they were not easy to get hold off if you wanted to query a delay in registering a trade mark. These days a local agent is required. You can even use the law firm in which the current Prime Minister of Belize is senior partner (although, unsurprisingly, he is on a leave of absence from the firm whilst he carries out these duties).

A Statement of Use is required in order to renew trade marks in Belize although non-use can be excusable; "lack of a suitable distributor in Belize" usually being an acceptable reason, for example.

It is possible to designate Belize in a Hague design application. It is only available to those with an entitlement under the Hague Act as Belize has not become party to the Geneva Act. In any case, this membership does not appear to be reflected in the Industrial Designs Act - Cap. 254 and therefore I find it unlikely that such Hague designs would be enforceable in Belize; the country following the Common Law doctrine.

With the Prime Minister winning re-election earlier in the year - and him coming from an IP agency - will the coming years see Belize join the Madrid Protocol and make efforts to put their Hague system membership in order?

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