A new copyright law is already in effect, and Cayman’s lawmakers hope to pass a trio of bills updating rules for trademarks, design rights and patents as soon as this month. More changes to the patent laws are also being drafted as the Commerce Ministry pushes to modernize protections for intellectual property.
When the United Kingdom extended its Copyright Act to Cayman last year, it replaced a law that was written in 1956. That law went into effect in June, updating protections for musicians, artists and other creators, in line with the digital age.
Reading from a written statement in the Legislative Assembly just after the U.K. extended the Copyright Act, Commerce Minister Wayne Panton said, “The protection of intellectual property is categorized in several key areas: patents, copyrights, trade marks, design rights and trade secrets. Basic protection in these areas is necessary for economic success; advanced protection is critical to allow creativity in an economy to really flourish.”
More than a year later as the law came into force, Mr. Panton said, “Local artists and investors have been frustrated for many years by the lack of modern IP protection in Cayman and clamored for improved rights. With copyrights, while previous legislation offered a level of protection, it was outdated to the point where local artists could not properly protect their digital music, images and other digital creations.”
Mr. Panton’s next push is for trademark and design rights.
The current trademark regime requires companies to register first in the U.K. and then have the mark extended to the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Panton, in an interview with the Cayman Compass last month, said the new trademark rules will give “better options for local trademark owners” and “ensure we have better control over local trademark protections.”
Sophie Davies, an attorney with HSM specializing in intellectual property, said the new rules will “cut out the middleman” from the trademark process. Local companies will no longer have to go to the U.K. to register trademarks.
“It’s very rare to have to go to another country to get protection,” said Ms. Davies, who helped draft the new intellectual property bills.
Trademark registry, design rights
The proposal would create a new trademark registry in the Cayman Islands.
According to the memorandum accompanying the Trade Marks Bill, “It has been observed too that the word ‘Cayman’ has been registered. This has resulted in businesses based in the Cayman Islands having a challenge in securing UK trade mark registrations where the trade mark includes the word ‘Cayman.’ A regime which provides for a system of local registration which prevents any one person having the exclusive right to the use of such words as ‘Cayman’ would address this matter.”
The Design Rights Bill, she explained, creates new protections for designs and the way something looks. She explained design rights as protecting “a new and novel look” for something, using the iPad’s unique style as an example.
Taking the opposite approach of the Trade Marks Bill, the Design Rights Bill “introduces a middleman where we didn’t have anything before.” The bill will allow designs registered in the U.K. or Europe to be extended to the Cayman Islands, the same way trademark is currently handled.
The last in the trio of intellectual property proposals coming up in the Legislative Assembly is amendments to the current Patents and Trade Marks Law. The amendments strip out the trademark provisions that will be in the future Trade Marks Law, but also make core changes to the way patent enforcement works in a bid to prevent “patent trolls” from taking advantage of the patent system.
“Patent trolls” are companies that use overly vague patents to claim ownership over broad technologies like podcasting or the ability to make purchases within a smartphone app.
The proposed amendments state that it would be unlawful to make claims for “patent infringement in bad faith.” The bill also states that courts in Cayman will not recognize patent rulings from other jurisdictions made in bad faith.