10 June 2015

Trademark Annuities...

In case the title of this blog left you with a quizzical look, no, the title is correct. Those of you that work across intellectual property rights (e.g. in both patents and trademarks) will be familiar with the payment of patent annuities.

However, there's a select group of jurisdictions where annual fees are payable to maintain trademark registrations.

Annual fees make the Cayman Islands one of the most expensive jurisdictions in which to maintain trademark registrations (although recent hikes in the official fees in the UAE and Venezuela means it's not the only place where maintaining a trademark registration can cost a fortune).

The Cayman Islands Registry used to allow representatives from anywhere to attend to matters before them. This changed in 2012 so that a local representative was required. I've previously worked with the local Registry but this change prevented me from doing so directly and therefore being able to maintain trademarks most cost-effectively for clients. Local agents in the Cayman Islands tend to be expensive reflecting the high cost of living there. It is worth considering paying all the annual fees (up to a registration's renewal date) in bulk to reduce the level of professional fees.

It's also worth being 'tactical' and avoiding registering trademarks in December. Annual fees fall due on 1 January each year so if you register in December you'll find yourself with an immediate payment to be made to keep the registration you have only just got in force.

The Cayman Islands are now looking to introduce a fresh trademark law (that removes its dependency on UK or Community registrations). It will be interesting to see how they set their official fees. Annual fees may be abolished but they will need to bring in examiners to handle applications filed under a new substantive trademark law so an increase in initial filing fees and, possibly, renewal fees could be anticipated.

Like the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory. They also share a need for annual fees to be paid to maintain trademark registrations. With a population roughly half that of the Cayman Islands and an economy that is not as developed, the number of trademarks registered in the Turks and Caicos Islands is a lot less.

Remaining firmly in the Western Hemisphere, Honduras is another country where annual fees are due. Again, I think it's worthwhile considering paying them in bulk up to a registration's renewal date as it can make the management of the registration easier.

Don't confuse these annual fees for Honduras with rehabilitation taxes. These taxes, which are unique to Honduras, are an optional payment. When paid they will protect a registration from being cancelled for non-use. Therefore, you only need to pay them if you're not using a trademark.

Rehabilitation taxes can easily be forgotten about and this is understandable when they are optional and not a mandatory maintenance requirement. They can be paid retrospectively. Therefore, if you have a registration that is vulnerable to cancellation on the grounds of non-use but you wish to file an opposition based on this registration, you would just need to back-pay any rehabilitation taxes prior to filing an opposition to help avoid a counter cancellation action on the grounds of non-use.

So annual maintenance payments to maintain trademark registrations may not be common, but if you help manage trademark renewals or maintenance then be aware that they can crop up from time-to-time. Even if you don't have patents under your responsibilities, you may also come across annual fees/annuities when maintaining design registrations (particularly in countries where the design law is a subset of the patent law) or domain names.