12 November 2012

Caribbean IP Part 16: Haiti

ISO 3166 country code: HT.

Occupying the western third of the island of Hispaniola, Haiti is the only independent country of the Caribbean region where French is an official language (along with Haitian Creole). Haiti was the first independent nation in Latin America and the Caribbean following a successful slave revolt in 1804.

The Service de la propriété intellectuelle (Service of intellectual property) is the responsible office in Haiti. Unfortunately, they do not appear to have a web presence of yet. The Haitian Copyright Office, Bureau haitien du droit d’auteur (BHDA), is able to boast a website, however. This is available in French only; there is no English version nor are pages available in Haitian Creole. This is a reflection generally where French appears to maintain prestige in legal matters in Haiti. Haitian Creole is based largely on French but it possesses standard orthography (it is a language available on the translation tool of the Google search engine) and has been official since the 1960s.

IP legislation in Haiti goes back many years - trade mark legislation was last amended in 1956 and that for designs in 1924. Independent registration is necessary for both trade marks and designs and accession to the Madrid Protocol or Hague System would appear to be far off for Haiti.

A trade mark registration is in force for 10 years but has an additional maintenance requirement - the due date being three months into the sixth year of registration - in which the trade mark owner must file evidence of use of their mark in Haiti, or, an executed Affidavit of Non-Use.

Haiti has sought full associate membership of the African Union and shares many IP characteristics with some African states: old laws, communication difficulties and agents that are not always as responsive as we may like. However, it does function in the IP arena and let's be realistic. With Haiti's economic state still suffering from the devastating earthquake of 2010 it is not surprising that the Government has more pressing priorities than modernising its trade mark law, for example.