Registering your trademark in Central America protects your intellectual property from competitors. A trademark is defined as a unique sign that distinguishes your product or service from others. Once registered, you must take certain steps to protect your trademark regularly.
Central America is comprised of 7 countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Together, these countries amount to a GDP of US$268.65 billion and a population of 45.524 million people.
Registering a trademark in Central America is essential to remain competitive and build a unique brand in the market. Unknowingly misusing an already existing trademark can lead to legal and financial burdens.
Be sure to understand how to register a trademark in six of these Central American countries. Likewise, it is also crucial to understand how to manage your exclusive rights to ensure no third parties are using designs identical or too similar to your own. This includes conducting trademark searches, demonstrating commercial application of your trademark, and renewing it when necessary.
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Benefits of protecting your brand with trademarks
Registering your trademark comes with many advantages, including:
- Protection of the trademark in the country of registration
- Right to file legal action against those who violate the use of your trademark for their commercial benefit
- Right to restrict the import of goods that use registered trademarks that infringe yours
- Right to license third parties and collect royalties
Trademark registration processes in Central America
Please note that the process to register collective marks and certification marks can be different from the process for trademarks on goods/services. It is best to consult with a local specialist as these differences vary according to the country.
The registration of a trademark is also of a territorial nature. This means the trademark is only protected in the country you applied to, not internationally protected.
Process to register your trademark in Belize
The Belize Intellectual Property Office (BeliPo) manages the protection of intellectual property. This includes trademarks, patents, industrial designs or copyrights.
- Request a trademark search on BeliPo’s website to verify the availability of your trademark
- Fill out the “Application for a Trademark” form (US$37.24 fee for each International Nice Classification class you apply for)
- Publish your trademark in the Intellectual Property Journal (US$124.12 fee)
- Fill out the “Fee for Registration of a Mark” form that costs US$37.24
- Fill out the “Application for an Address for Service” form (US$12.41 fee) if your residence or main location of business is outside of Belize, or you are a local who applies through an attorney
- Fill out the “Form of Authorization of Agent in a Matter of Proceeding Under the Act” if your residence or main location of business is outside of Belize, or you are a local who applies through an attorney.
Process to register your trademark in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s National Registry manages the protection of industrial property, including trademarks.
- Verify the availability of your trademark in the Global Brand Database as it contains information from over 40 industrial property offices around the world
- Fill out the trademark application that requires information such as:
- Place of incorporation and address of the applicant if a juridical person
- If the case may be, the name and type of legal representative or power of attorney (POA)
- Name and address of the POA in the country, if the applicant has no real and effective domicile or establishment in the country
- Name or sign to be registered
- List of the goods/services represented by the trademark and grouped by class number according to the Nice International Classification of Products and Services
- Proof of payment, US$50 (per class if a multi-class application).
Process to register your trademark in El Salvador
The National Registery Center in El Salvador manages trademarks through its Intellectual Property Registry.
- Verify the availability of your trademark for US$20 (optional but very beneficial)
- Submit application along with copied of the trademark
- Publish the trademark in Salvadorian newspapers, allowing other businesses who have similar trademarks to make formal objections against your application
- Two months later, present your design and “posters” to the Intellectual Property Registry for registration of the trademark
- If your trademark faces objections, the Intellectual Property Registry conducts a second review of the application
- Payment of the $100 registration fee.
Process to register your trademark in Guatemala
The Intellectual Property Registry manages all trademark applications in Guatemala. Trademark registration in Guatemala requires the advice of an active Guatemalan lawyer and notary.
- With the assistance of a lawyer, complete and sign the registration request form
- Accompanying documents:
- If you are an individual: include with your application a legalized photocopy of your identification
- In the case of a legal entity: include a legalized photocopy of the document proving your representation
- If in the case of an individual or foreign legal entity not residing in Guatemala: include a legalized copy of the mandate accompanied by a special clause granted to a Guatemalan lawyer
- Proof of payment
- The design/name to be trademarked
- Publication of the trademark in the Central American Gazette, allowing other businesses who have similar trademarks to make a formal objections against your application
- Counteract any opposition within 2 months from the first publication
- Pay the registration fee if the application passes the above evaluation process.
Process to register your trademark in Honduras
The Property Institute manages trademark applications in Honduras. Trademark registration in Honduras requires a Honduran legal representative or POA.
- Apply to verify the availability of your trademark in the Property Institute’s registry
- Complete the trademark application form taking into consideration the Nice classification number of the goods/services, as each application per class costs US$28
- Submit the trademark application along with an authenticated copy of the company’s constitution and copies of the design/name to be trademarked
- Publish the trademarks in the local gazette, allowing others to oppose your trademark if it is similar to an already existing one
- After the oppositions are countered and the application is accepted, an annual payment of US$4 must be paid for trademark maintenance.
Process to register your trademark in Panama
The General Directorate of Industrial Property of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries regulates trademarks in Panama.
- Verify the availability of your trademark on the above website
- Appoint a POA
- Provide a sworn affidavit outlining how you intend to use the trademarked item
- Provide a description of the item you want to trademark
- Include with your application 3 branded samples of the trademark
- Provide a certification of the registered trademark if registered in another country (this must be notarized, and apostilled or authenticated by the other country’s local Consulate of Panama)
- Pay the registration fee of US$140.50.
After obtaining a trademark in Central America: how to maintain it?
After you register your trademark in Central America, you must take certain steps to regularly ensure that no other third party is attempting to use your trademark, or register a design considered identical or too similar to your own. This involves conducting regular trademark searches in Central American trademark databases, which may be time-consuming and difficult to navigate
Additionally, certain trademark regulations in some countries require proof that a trademark owner is applying that trademark for commercial use. In some cases, businesses or individuals who have registered a trademark may run the risk of losing their exclusive right over their design if they are not actively using it.
Finally, trademark owners must take note of expiration dates for their trademarks in the country or countries they operate in. This can be challenging for multinational firms or those holding multiple trademarks at any given time. It is important not to leave your business vulnerable to losing exclusive use of a trademark in Central America if it is due to expire soon.
Work with a specialist on your trademark in Central America
Save your team time and prevent unnecessary risk by workng with an experienced trademark specialist in Central America. A trustworthy provider of trademark services can support you with your application registration, plus the ongoing maintenance requirements for your trademark as set by local law.
Trademark specialists can monitor other new trademark applications to identify any legal issues with pending designs, provide guidance on any relevant requisite to demonstrate use of your trademark, and remind your team when trademark renewal is due.
Get assistance protecting your trademark in Central America
Certain governments, such as Guatemala and Honduras, require the involvement of a local lawyer or legal representative to register a trademark. If not required, it is still best to connect with a local lawyer who can bridge bureaucratic and cultural gaps between your company and local institutions. This may mean finding a bilingual representative to register a trademark in Central America.
Of all the seven countries in the region, Belize is the only country where street signs, documents, and all official paperwork is in British English. All other countries in this region operate in Spanish. Nevertheless, many executives make the mistake of assuming cultural similarities between two countries that speak the same language.
Get in touch with us – our local experts support new and expanding businesses across Latin America. We offer personalized advice for your trademark registration process and company incorporation in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
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