Panama historically has been a transit country, functioning as a connection point for international trade. Thanks to our geographical position and logistics infrastructure, tons of merchandise transit through the national territory, without this being its final destination.
Thus, the daily passage of merchandise is a great challenge for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights, because our infrastructure is not exempt from being used, also, as a bridge for the trade of counterfeit products. In order to prevent the aforementioned situation and to fully fulfill the mission that Panama has with world trade, regulations have been developed that allow the control of the transit of products both for those whose final destination is Panama, and for those who are in transit.
The Customs Authority, as an entity in charge of guaranteeing the compliance and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights in customs areas, is entitled to retain and/or inspect merchandise in transit that may be counterfeit products.
Such retention, by the authority, may be carried out ex officio, in case there is a suspicion that the merchandise in transit infringes an industrial or intellectual property right. It should be noted that such suspicion may be based on the list of alleged counterfeiters, precedents, among others.
In the case of the Colon Free Zone, the General Management or its equivalent has the faculty to retain and / or inspect the merchandise, in case it has well-founded indications that such merchandise may be counterfeit merchandise.
In consequence, in order to safeguard your products trademark must be registered in both, Customs Authority and the Colon Free trade Zone. Once the trademark is registered, the right holder will be able to consign sample of the merchandise, the list of alleged counterfeiters, official licensees and official distributors. Therefore, the action by the authority in case of possible counterfeit, will be faster.
In order to register a trademark before these instances, it would be mandatory to have the exclusive trademark right in the Panamanian territory. Therefore, a Trademark Title issued by the Intellectual Property Registry Office is needed. This title will grant the trademark right in Panamanian territory for 10 years, the same time shall be valid for Customs Authority and Colon Free trade Zone's trademark registration.
It should be noted that the registration of the trademark before the customs authority and free zone is not carried out ex officio by the Intellectual Property Registry Office, on the contrary, said registration must be carried out by the interested party. Therefore, not having your registered trademark in Panamanian territory, can diminish the effectiveness of your strategy regarding the commercialization of counterfeit products of your brand.
Considering the enviable geographical position that Panama has and the several opportunities it presents for international trade, trademark registration before the different Panamanian agencies must be considered as a fundamental part of its strategy for the protection of the various intangible assets of your company.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.