The Cook Islands has become a party to the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO Convention). WIPO is designed to help realise the benefits of intellectual property by providing forums, services and technical infrastructure to connect intellectual property systems.
Its primary services include management of the international systems for patents, trademarks and designs (established by the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid Protocol and the Hague Agreement, respectively). While accession to WIPO is separate from the Cook Islands being party to these agreements, it is an encouraging step towards establishing a regulatory framework in line with international standards.
Intellectual property in the Cook Islands is currently still largely governed by New Zealand law. Section 627 and 635 of the Cook Islands Act 1915 dictates that the New Zealand Patents Act 1953, the Designs Act 1953, Trade Marks Act 1953 and Copyright Act 1962 are in force in the Cook Islands. However, when the Trade Marks Act 1953 was replaced by the 2002 Act, there was nothing in the new Act to address the issue of trade mark rights in the Cook Islands. As such, there is presently no way for trade marks to be registered in the Cook Islands - leaving rights to be managed by common law. The accession to WIPO is hopefully indication the Cook Islands will soon be making moves to fill this legal gap.