AG holds intellectual property protection talks with US officials

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, S.C., engaging the US officials at his office on Thursday

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, S.C., recently held discussions on the intellectual property landscape in Guyana with visiting officials from the United States.
Representatives of the United States & Foreign Commercial Service of Guyana, along with representatives of their sister agency the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), are in Georgetown engaging local stakeholders. The USPTO is the federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks in key foreign markets.
On Thursday, the visiting delegation met with Minister Nandlall at the Attorney General’s Chambers on Carmichael Street Georgetown, and engaged the Attorney General to learn about the local landscape and activities happening on the intellectual property front. They also advocated for the promotion of greater intellectual property protection.
The USPTO offered assistance necessary to enhance the local intellectual property rights landscape in Guyana, to enhance the ease of access in dealing with intellectual property transactions.
In response, AG Nandlall thanked the delegation for initiating the engagement, and updated them on the wide-ranging statutory and other legal reforms taking place in Guyana. He highlighted modernisation of the commercial architecture as a priority, noting that patents, trademarks and intellectual property are among the areas for review.
However, the Legal Affairs Minister emphasized, “The Government of Guyana will chart the direction in which these reforms will unfold, with priority being given to CARICOM model type legislation. All assistance offered, especially in the form of training and capacity building, will be welcomed by Guyana.”
During the engagement, the Attorney General was accompanied by the Registrar of Commerce of the Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority, Reza Manraj. On the visiting delegation were Regional Intellectual Property Attaché for Mercosur, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname U.S. Patent and Trademark Office/U.S. Commercial Service, David Kellis; Regional Intellectual Property Advisor for Mercosur, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname, Maria Beatriz Dellore; Senior Commercial Officer U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service – Guyana, Daniel Gaines; and Commercial Assistant – Budget Analyst U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service in Guyana, Tocoma Alexis.
As part of their visit to Georgetown, the officials from the United States Patent and Trademark Office also met with the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) and the Guyana Bar Association on Thursday.In that session, GAWL President Alanna Lall actively engaged in discussions focused on enhancing strategies to safeguard the intellectual property rights of citizens as well as the business community in Guyana.
Current intellectual property and copyright laws in the country are archaic, dating back to the 1956 British Copyright Act that Guyana inherited when it gained independence from Great Britain in 1966. Though the current Act does protect literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works, the fines are extremely low, ranging mostly from £5 to £50 (Gy$1300-Gy$13,000).
While there has been a push from stakeholders, especially those in the creative and music industries in Guyana, for modern legislations to protect their work and earn them money, the Government has warned about the implications that such laws could have.
In an interview with the state-owned Guyana Chronicle back in November 2020, AG Nandlall explained that intellectual property protection is important, but pointed to the social and financial ramifications that could stem from implementing such laws.
“A society must be careful in the type of laws that it promulgates. It cannot, it should not, promulgate laws that will impose hardships on the majority of its citizens. It should not promote laws which do not meet the aspirations and the way of life of a majority of its citizens… A DVD, for example, will have to be sold for approximately US$20, which is above the [daily] minimum wage in Guyana,” Nandlall was quoted as saying in the article.
Push cart vendors and other businesses that sell CDs and DVDs had decried efforts by the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government to modernise the protection of intellectual property and copyright.
Back in 2018, the Coalition Administration had received assistance from the Switzerland-based World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to draft a National Intellectual Property Strategy (NIPS). At the time, the Government was also working with the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in addition to the WIPO, a United Nations specialised organisation, to draft local intellectual property and copyright legislation.
Meanwhile, in January this year, Shadow Culture, Youth and Sport Minister Nima Flue-Bess had renewed calls for modern copyright legislation in Guyana.