There are many challenges to overcome when operating in a foreign country, including different business and legal rules. If you’re considering operating in Fiji, you should take the time to identify what aspects of your business should be protected through Intellectual Property (IP) law. Protecting your rights is a powerful deterrent against would-be infringers and an important part of managing your brand and your business.
What are the ground rules?
There are three main pieces of legislation governing IP in Fiji:
- Patents Act (Cap 239)
- Copyright Act 1999
- Trade marks Act (Cap 240)
The Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the IP Office, administers the registry for Patents and Trademarks. All filings (and searches) must be done in person at the registry office in Suva and records are not computerised.
Registration for a new Fiji trademark can take anywhere up to three years from the start of the process. Trademark registration in Fiji is based on traditional British classifications and is yet to migrate to the International Nice Classification. This means that most trademark registrations will need to be reclassified into different categories to those recognised in other countries. Local trademark registrations must be renewed every 14 years (from date of application).
It is also possible to re-register a UK trademark on the Fiji register. This does not require notice or an opposition period and is often a simpler and quicker process. UK based trademarks must be renewed once the UK trademark registration expires.
Service marks are not registrable in Fiji.
Applications for UK patent re-registrations are permitted in Fiji, provided such applications are made within three years of applying in the UK. The patent will be recognised in Fiji for the length of the registration in the UK. Advertising is necessary; however, the opposition period is waived.
Independent patent applications are also permitted, however these take a considerable length of time to be registered as applications are sent to Australia for examination.
While new copyright legislation was introduced in 2000, there is no registration system in place. Instead, the legislation provides that copyright is a property right that exists in original works of certain descriptions and the author of the work is the first owner.
How are rights enforced?
In Fiji, most rights must be enforced through private action for damages and injunction. There are also provisions under the Customs Act 1986 and accompanying regulations that prevent the importation of goods that infringe existing trademark, patent or copyright protection.