This post was first published on October 15, 2014.
The Intellectual Property Regime in the Republic of Maldives, the smallest Asian country in population and in area, is an interesting study. In order to comply with the TRIPS Agreement, the Maldives Government (referred to as GOM) enacted the Copyright Law in April, 2011, and thereafter spread public awareness of Copyright Law through TV and radio programs, Government announcements, school events and meetings with relevant media and entertainment sector associations.
It is important to note that GOM does not have any specific legal infrastructure to protect Trademarks. However, GOM is currently working on bills regarding Trademarks and Geographical Indication, with the assistance of WIPO. GOM recently established an IPR unit within the Ministry of Economic Development, but has not yet signed international agreements or conventions on Intellectual Property Rights.
Thus, due to the absence of legal infrastructure in protecting trademarks, any potential applicant who wants to conduct a legal search for conflicting trademarks, will not be able to do so as there is no official registry of trademarks maintained by GOM. Usual practice adopted is, applicant makes a publication in local newspapers in the form of cautionary notices, which have to be published every 3 years, so as to renew the validity of initial cautionary notices.
When one goes through the Companies Act of the Republic of Maldives, one will understand that Foreign Companies registered outside the Republic, can register their company’s name as per S. 94 and S. 10 before the Registrar of Companies at Maldives. However, it is left to the discretion of the Registrar, whether or not to register the name of the company. Also, a foreign client would only have to submit details like name; address; nationality of the Applicant; legal status of the Applicant; trademark; international class; description of goods and services. Whether or not individual proprietors can register trademarks is not clear from the existing Companies Act of GOM. However, a Trademark Registration Form is made available in the official website maintained by the Ministry of Economic Development, Republic of Maldives.
However, as GOM is currently working on bills regarding Trademarks and Geographical Indication, one can expect that once the system is finally ready to go, like in a TRIPS compliant country, Maldives would also allow any body – Corporate/ Company/ Individual/ Partnership/Family etc. to apply for registration of their mark and that there would be a Trademarks Registry which would keep track of marks applied for and already registered, making it easier for even foreign applicants of trademarks.
Image: from here