Panama is one of the most competitive countries in the Americas. It’s a strategically sound location for business, where you can quickly and easily establish a company of your choice to engage with the rest of the region.
In the business world, it’s very important to protect the brand of your products or to patent your original products. This allows you to compete in the market without other merchants being able to copy and sell replicas of your goods and ideas and affect your income directly.
For this reason, in Panama businesses can register their inventions, products, and ideas with the government under a patent. This process protects your intellectual property from being used by others for financial gain.
Patent / Trademark registration in Panama
If you have an idea for a product that needs protecting, you can register a patent of the original product before the country’s Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
You can initiate this process by submitting a patent application or trademark registration before the General Directorate of Industrial Property of Panama.
In recent years, there has been an exponential increase in the application for patent registration in Panama. This demonstrates the value of this protection and growth in Panama’s ‘ideas’ economy. Creative companies moving to the country to make the most of its logistical power are receiving support from the government to keep their work profitable.
Types of patents in Panama
Businesses can apply for 2 types of patents in Panama: inventions or utility models.
It is important to keep in mind that before registering a patent with the General Directorate, the product must meet four characteristics:
- It must fall within what is considered ‘inventive activity’
- It will be assessed on its novelty
- The invention must have industrial application
- You must solve a technical problem.
In other words, in order to apply for a patent in the country, your product must have an original creation process with trials and errors on how the result was reached. The product must be completely new; there can be no publications on it or evidence that that type of technology exists. Finally, the industrial application criteria means that the product must be commercially viable and profitable in the market.
How long do these patents offer protection for?
Patents for the industrial exploitation of inventions are valid for 20 years, and utility models for 10 years in order to maintain a competitive advantage.
It’s important to take advantage of the time granted to recover your investment. Once the validity period expires, the product’s specifications will be made available in the public domain and can be used by other merchants.
Invention vs. utility model: what’s the difference?
It is important to be able to differentiate a utility model from an invention to know which patent is best suited for your product.
According to the General Directorate of the Industrial Property Registry in the Ministry of Commerce of Industries of Panama, an invention is:
“Any idea applicable in practice for the solution of a specific technical problem. The invention can be a product or the non-obvious use of an existing product”
For a utility model:
“The utility model is an invention that, being new and involving an activity, consists in giving an object a configuration, structure or constitution that results in a practical advantage for its use or manufacture. Within this [framework] they can be: utensils, tools, devices, devices or parts thereof.”
What can’t be patented?
When registering a patent, keep in mind that there are some inventions that cannot be patented.
Panamanian legislation establishes that business cannot obtain a patent for the following inventions:
- essentially biological cases for the obtaining and reproduction of plants, animals or their varieties provided that the General Directorate of Industrial Property considers that it challenges the morality, integrity or dignity of the human being.
- plant species and animal breeds
- biological material as found in nature
- vegetable varieties.
The Panamanian government’s full guide on patenting inventions is available in Spanish on their website.
How do patents protect your business?
Industrial property rights, such as those that can be obtained on trademarks and inventions, are not mandatory. However, possessing these rights can greatly benefit the seller who owns the brand or the invention. For a significant length of time, patents can prevent third parties from marketing your product and competing directly with you.
With a patent in place, no other merchant can sell or market their product without the consent of the owner. Though companies and individuals may choose to keep their invention private, this carries the risk that another may invent the same product, at which point the former can no longer take advantage of it.
Contact us for help
We can help with your business setup and compliance needs. Expansion is an exciting, complex, and challenging process, and we’re here to make life easier for you.
Biz Latin Hub’s team of experienced legal and accounting professionals support businesses moving into the Latin American and Australasian regions. Our local offices offer key guidance across a range of market entry and back-office functions to make sure you start off on the right foot in a new market.
For more information, reach out to us here at Biz Latin Hub.