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Panama: Trademarks and Copyrights

In the beginning of the 90's, the Republic of Panama joined with the World Trade Organization. One of the most important requirements required by the international Organization was for Panama to amend and update  its  intellectual property laws. The purpose was the harmonization of all its laws to comply with the international regulations regarding intellectual property law.

In 1994, the Republic of Panama enacted Law 15 of 1994, which amends the 1917 Administrative Code of Panama the body of law which until then regulated intellectual property in Panama. By this new law, copyrights were divided in two parts: moral copyright and patrimony copyright.  The law also includes topics such as the copyright in software, edition agreements, and broadcast transmission events, among others.

The new law increased the fines, criminal prosecution proceedings,  stated freezing orders, injunctions, sequestration and other immediate measures against persons with criminal charges for copyright; and the District Attorney office created a National Intellectual Property District Attorney Office to investigate and prosecute all criminals who committed copyright crimes. The criminal Code of Panama also was amended to complete the change.  New and specialized courts were also created for this main purpose.

Until 1994, the responsible agency for intellectual property affairs was the Ministry of Education through the National Copyright Direction. This government agency was in charge of receiving and registration copyright and collaborating with the National Intellectual Property District Attorney Office.

Pursuant to Law 15 of 1994, the Republic of Panama enacted Law 35 of 1996. New procedures and requirements for registration of invention patents, trademarks, utility models, and industrial models were adopted. The fines, criminal prosecutions and civil liability procedures also increased for conducts such as counterfeit legally protected by this new law.  One of the most interesting aspects of Law 35 is the procedure to calculate punitive damages in civil liabilities. It is calculated according to the profits of the parties or how much a liable party might pay if he/she signs an ordinary license agreement with the licensor of the trademark.  Finally, the National Intellectual Property District Attorney Office was entitled by Law 35 of 1996 to investigate and prosecute all trademarks and industrial property infringements.

Law 35 also empowers the Customs Authority of Panama to confiscate illegal merchandise in the Colon Free Zone and deliver all evidence and criminals to the National Intellectual Property District Attorney Office. New and specialized courts were also created for this main purpose.

Recently, Panama enacted Law No.10 of February 22, 2011, by means of which the Copyright department was transferred from the Ministry of Education to Ministry of Commerce. This great change completed the Panama's government project of having all Industrial and Intellectual Property Law in one Ministry in the same direction: Protect copyright and trademarks.

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