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Panama Intellectual Property Rights

Discuss the sanitary standards, prohibited imports regulations, licenses, and free trade zone in Panama.

Panama Intellectual Property Rights

Postby bridgat » Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:07 am

See the proposed US-Panama FTA chapter concerning IPR protection.

Panama is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Geneva Phonograms Convention, the Brussels Satellite Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the International Convention for the Protection of Plant Varieties. In addition, Panama was one of the first countries to ratify the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, although the government has yet to introduce implementing legislation to put these treaties fully into force in Panama.

Protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Panama has improved significantly over the past several years. The government passed an Anti-Monopoly Law in 1996 mandating the creation of commercial courts to hear anti-trust, patent, trademark, and copyright cases exclusively. Two district courts and one superior tribunal began to operate in June 1997 and have been adjudicating intellectual property disputes. IPR policy and practice in Panama is the responsibility of an Inter-institutional Committee for Intellectual Property (CIPI). This committee consists of representatives of six government agencies and operates under the leadership of the Vice-Minister of Commerce, who has delegated chairmanship to the head of the industrial property office. CIPI coordinates enforcement actions and develops strategies to improve compliance with the law, including organizing training and public awareness seminars, among other activities.


The National Assembly in 1994 passed a comprehensive copyright bill (Law 15), based on a WIPO model. The law modernizes copyright protection in Panama, provides for payment of royalties, facilitates the prosecution of copyright violators, protects computer software, and makes copyright infringement a felony. Although the lead prosecutor for IPR cases in the Attorney General's Office has taken a vigorous enforcement stance, the Copyright Office remains small.


A new Industrial Property Law (Law 35) went into force in 1996 and provides 20 years of patent protection from the date of filing. Pharmaceutical patents are granted for only 15 years, but can be renewed for an additional ten years, if the patent owner licenses a national company (minimum of 30% Panamanian ownership) to exploit the patent. The Industrial Property Law provides specific protection for trade secrets.


Law 35 also provides trademark protection, simplifying the process of registering trademarks and making them renewable for ten-year periods. The law's most important feature is the granting of ex-officio authority to government agencies to conduct investigations and to seize materials suspected of being counterfeited. Decrees 123 of November 1996 and 79 of August 1997 specify the procedures to be followed by Customs and CFZ officials in conducting investigations and confiscating merchandise. In 1997, the Customs Directorate created a special office for IPR enforcement, followed by a similar office created by the CFZ in 1998. The Trademark Registration Office has undertaken significant modernization with a searchable computerized database of registered trademarks that is open to the public and remotely accessible by Customs and CFZ officials, among others.

License agreements enclosed in software packaging are binding on the Panamanian customer. Local IPR laws apply.
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