Gain a clear understanding of the Dominican Republic trademark search and registration process, to protect your inventions and characteristic signs. Though exciting, expanding into a new market is also challenging for companies, and it’s important to make every effort to protect the returns on their investments by law. To remain profitable, and build credible brand awareness, you’ll want to gain exclusive rights over your company’s unique products and design elements.
Intellectual property rights in the Dominican Republic are Constitutionally protected. Article 52 of the country’s Constitution identifies creators’ exclusive rights over their ideas, inventions, trademarks and distinctive signs.
We outline the Dominican Republic trademark search and registration process for companies expanding into the country.
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Dominican Republic trademark search and registration
There are several steps to register your trademark in the Dominican Republic. Once completed, your trademark is valid for a period of 10 years.
Dominican Republic trademark office
It’s important to understand which local government authorities manage trademark registration in the Dominican Republic, and the laws that govern them.
The Dominican Republic’s trademark office is called the National Office for Industrial Property. This is known locally as the Oficina Nacional de la Propiedad Industrial (ONAPI). This agency is a branch of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The ONAPI governs the trademark registration process in the Dominican Republic for:
- Industrial designs
- Trade names
- Utility models
- Geographical indications and designations of origin.
Through the ONAPI, you can:
- Conduct a trademark search in the Dominican Republic (this applies to both signs and inventions)
- Apply to register your trademark in the Dominican Republic, using the secure online platform
- Check the status of your application.
Dominican Republic trademark registration process
Crucially, the first step to register a trademark in the Dominican Republic is to familiarize yourself with local trademark laws, and what you can register a trademark for. You’ll need support from a Legal Representative with the appropriate power to act on your company’s behalf during this process.
Then, you must conduct a thorough trademark search in the Dominican Republic’s national database before applying.
1. Understand local Industrial Property laws
There are two main pieces of legislation that provide the framework for protecting intellectual property in the Dominican Republic:
- Ley No. 20-00, Ley Sobre Propiedad Industrial (Industrial Property Law)
- Ley No. 65-00, Ley Sobre Derecho De Autor (Copyright Law).
This legislation defines the designs or characteristics of a brand, idea or invention that can be registered as trademark or copyright.
According to Dominican law, a trademark can consist of (translated from Spanish):
“words, names, pseudonyms, trade slogans, letters, numbers, monograms, figures, portraits, labels, coats of arms, prints, vignettes, borders, lines and stripes, combinations and arrangements of colors and three-dimensional shapes. They may also consist of the shape, presentation or packaging of the products or their packaging or wrapping, or the means or premises for the sale of the corresponding products or services.”
The legislation is clear about what may not be constituted as a trademark, including generic and commonly used names, words or symbols, or markings that could be confused with other already-established trademarks.
The ONAPI’s classification for marks aligns with the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks of 1957, also known as the Nice Agreement.
2. Sign a Power of Attorney document
In the Dominican Republic, you’ll need formal legal support to carry out the trademark application process. To get assistance from a knowledgeable local trademark expert, you must appoint a Legal Representative in the Dominican Republic, and grant them authority to prepare your trademark application.
Powers are granted to Legal Representatives through what’s known as a Power of Attorney contract, signed by the company and the Legal Representative. This document is a legal mandate for the elected individual to act on behalf of the company on certain legal matters.
3. Conduct a Dominican Republic trademark search
You need to know if your markings, names or designs are actually available before you submit an application for trademark registration. You can do this by conducting a trademark search in the Dominican Republic.
Visit the ONAPI website to conduct a trademark search for signs. For patents, there’s also a search function for existing inventions.
4. Prepare and submit your application
Once you’ve confirmed that your trademark is available using the trademark search, you can prepare and submit an application to ONAPI.
You can find the necessary forms for your application on the ONAPI website, as well as submit your application online through their secure trademark platform. The latter is called ‘E-SERPI’, and you need to create an online account to start this process.
Generally, you’ll need to submit the following information and documentation:
- Name of the trademark owner and their representative
- Applicant’s address and other contact details
- Power of Attorney document: this must be legalized by the Dominican Consulate, or apostilled
- Copy of the representative’s passport
- Trademark description and international class.
- Five 15 cm x 15 cm copies of the trademark design.
5. ONAPI evaluates and publishes your application
The ONAPI will publish your application for the general public, in order to give any third parties an opportunity to comment on your proposed trademark.
The agency will make the following information publicly available for comment:
- The proposed mark
- Name of the applicant
- Your application number
- The date of application
- Any related goods or services associated with the trademark
- Representation of trademark.
ONAPI allows the public 45 days to provide any comment or objection to your application, before it will evaluate your proposed trademark. If your application does receive public comment, ONAPI may ask you to clarify or change your proposed trademark accordingly.
Why register a trademark in the Dominican Republic?
Registering your trademark gives you the exclusive legal right over your designs and unique markings. This not only protects your brand credibility, but also secures the profitability of your business.
You’ll have the power to take legal action against any third parties trying to use your trademark for their own commercial gain. Penalties for unlawful use of a trademark include hefty fines and even jail time for more severe cases.
You can renew your trademark, provided you begin the renewal application process 6 months before the trademark expires.
Note: though your trademark is protected for 10 years, it may be cancelled if you don’t use the trademark for 3 consecutive years.
Industries where a trademark is mandatory
Be aware that in the Dominican Republic, it’s illegal to use unregistered marks for certain products. This includes:
- Veterinary goods
- Tobacco products
- Food and drinks
- Industrial chemical products
If your business intends to sell any goods that could fall under these categories, you are required by law to register a trademark first.
International intellectual property treaties
The Dominican Republic’s participation in a number of international treaties does mean that trademark owners in the country have ‘priority rights’ over obtaining the same trademark in other countries.
This goes both ways: if you’re expanding to the Dominican Republic from a country that has also signed the Paris Convention, then you can claim priority attention for your application. Note that you must have submitted your trademark application in the home country at least 6 months prior to applying in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is party to 15 international treaties, found on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website. The country is serious about meeting international intellectual property standards, and providing the best possible environment for businesses to protect their ideas, inventions and designs.
Biz Latin Hub can support your Dominican Republic trademark search and registration
You’ll need to find a trusted trademark specialist to engage with as your Legal Representative, in order to carry out the proper process for trademark search and registration in the Dominican Republic.
At Biz Latin Hub, our experienced team of local and expatriate professionals can guide you through the trademark registration process, ensuring you’re fully compliant with the law at each step.
We provide a full range of multilingual market entry and back-office services, including in company formation and trademark registration. Reach out to us today here at Biz Latin Hub for a customized quote, and let us help you do business in the Dominican Republic.
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