Infringement of intellectual property rights is typically handled as civil matter. There are, however, cases in which the gravity of the infringement and the damage caused result in criminal penalties.
In Costa Rica, the Law Regarding the Procedures of Observance of Intellectual Property Rights provides for civil actions against violation of intellectual property rights, as well as criminal prosecution in certain cases involving trademarks and copyrights.
Criminal Trademark Infringement:
Under Costa Rican law, the following acts are deemed to be an infringement of a trademark right, punished with fines and/or terms of imprisonment ranging from a few months to five years:
- The falsification of a registered trademark, in a way that causes damage to the exclusive rights conferred by trademark registration.
- The sale, offer for sale, storing, import or export of counterfeited goods, including their packaging or container, with a registered trademark in a way that causes damage to the exclusive rights conferred by trademark registration.
- The sale or offer for sale or purchase of designs of a trademark equal or similar to a registered trademark, in a way that causes damage to the exclusive rights conferred by trademark registration.
- The forged identification as an authorized distributor of a company, whose trade name is registered in a way that causes damage to the exclusive rights conferred by trade name registration.
- The use of a geographical indication or denomination of origin in a way that may cause confusion in the public as to the source of identity of the owner or manufacturer.
Criminal actions cannot be initiated ex officio. The trademark owner or any other victim of the crime must file a complaint before the prosecutor office in order to initiate criminal proceedings.
Criminal Copyright Infringement:
The Costa Rican Law also provides for criminal prosecution in cases involving copyright infringement, enumerating actions punished with fines and/or terms of imprisonment ranging from a few months to five years, depending on whether the infringer had a profit motive. Commercial infringers are subject to the highest penalties. Some of those actions are:
- Performance or communication to the public directly or indirectly of a literary or artistic work without the consent of the owner.
- Registration, with fraudulent intent, of literary or artistic works, phonograms, fixed or unfix performances or broadcasts owned by another, before the Copyright Registry.
- Reproduction of literary or artistic works without authorization.
- Fixation, reproduction and broadcasting of copyrighted performances without authorization.
- As the authorized editor, the reproduction of a number of copies greater than that authorized by the author or the right holder.
- Publication as one’s own or that of another different from the author, a copyrighted work with the title changed or suppressed or with the text altered.
- Selling, storing or distributing counterfeited copies of copyrighted works.
- Alteration, suppression, modification, or impairing effective technological measures that control access to a protected work, performance, phonogram or other protect subject matter.
In criminal proceedings, judicial authorities may order, at their discretion or at the demand of the right holder, the destruction of the counterfeited goods. They have also the authority to order the materials and implements that have been used in the manufacture or creation of such counterfeited goods be, without compensation of any sort, promptly destroyed or in exceptional circumstances disposed of outside the channels of commerce, in such a manner as to minimize the risk of further infringement.
Under Costa Rican law there is no criminal prosecution for patents and trade secret infringement. The law provides, nevertheless, with civil remedies including injunctions, damages, and impoundment or destruction of the infringing articles.