21 November 2012

Caribbean IP Part 18: Montserrat

ISO 3166 country code: MS.

I have seen Montserrat by boat and I'm not a fan of boats. However, Montserrat holds a place in my heart as I'm a bit of a geography anorak and it's one of the smallest trade mark jurisdictions (by population) in the world. Roughly 5,000 people live on the island.

This was not the case prior to 1995 when it sat above Tuvalu in the population tables and roughly alongside Anguilla. That year the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano led to 8,000 people evacuating the island. Over half of the island is now an exclusion zone and most the evacuees have not returned. The destroyed capital, Plymouth, is within this exclusion zone.

Given all this it can be surprising to note that Montserrat operates an efficient trade mark system from the Supreme Court Registry in the de facto capital of Brades. There is a dual filing regime in place. A substantive application could be filed previously using the old fashioned former British classification system (see The Bahamas), but an amendment of the Trade Marks Rules in October has changed this to the International Classification. Alternatively, a UK registration can be extended to Montserrat. Naturally, this will use the Nice Classification. The UK route was the only way to register service marks but the new Trade Marks Rules have now made these available for local (substantive) applications too.

It is also possible for Community Trade Marks and International Registrations (designating the UK or European Community) to be extended in the same way; the local Trade Marks Act was revised on 1 January 2002 to state:

"United Kingdom trade mark means any trade mark registered under the United Kingdom Trade Marks Act and any trade mark which, by virtue of any law in force in the United Kingdom is deemed to be a trade mark registered in the United Kingdom or which could, though not in fact registered in the United Kingdom, be given effect to in the United Kingdom."

When it comes to designs, I understand that UK designs provide automatic protection in Montserrat. However, I cannot locate the United Kingdom Designs (Protection) Act No. 181 of 1887 legislation on-line but I would anticipate it has not been amended to mean Registered Community Designs also have effect in Montserrat.

Patents are by extension of granted UK rights and must be on file within three years of grant in the UK.

Montserrat's IP Office lacks a web presence. Perhaps this will be developed in the future; the island is heavily subsidised by the UK (it being a British overseas territory) and some of this may be invested in a website. However, the local Government may have more pressing priorities - perhaps including improving the fortunes of the island's football team!