Panama: Trademark Registration In The Colon Free Zone - Additional Trademark Protection

Last Updated: 31 October 2000

The Colon Free Zone ("CFZ") is the second largest duty-free trade area in the world, after the Hong Kong free zone. It is located in the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal and it is comprised of approximately 1,600 companies.

The companies in the CFZ import products, specially, from the Far East being Taiwan one of the largest suppliers, and the re-export them to other countries, mainly, countries in Latin America. Thus, the CFZ serves as a transshipment point for goods coming from Asia and a significant percentage of those goods are counterfeit.

In light of this situation, the Panamanian government decided to grant powers to the Administration Office of the CFZ to inspect and temporarily retain goods suspected to be counterfeit. This was done through the enactment of the Law 35 of May 10, 1996, and the Executive Decree No. 79 of August 1, 1997.

To this end, the Administration Office of the CFZ inaugurated on March 10, 1998, the Intellectual Property Department which is in charge of the conduction of these inspections and retentions. The Administration Office has also implemented a Registry for trademarks registered in Panama, in order to have in hand all the data pertaining to the trademarks that must be protected and to expedite the detection and retention of possible counterfeit products.


The requirements for the filing of applications for the registration of trademarks in the CFZ Administration are:

  • Power of Attorney duly notarized and legalized by the Panamanian Consulate or with the Seal of Apostille.
  • Certified copy of the trademark registration issued by the Ministry of Commerce.
  • Three labels of the trademark. These have to be identical to those registered before the Industrial Property Department of the Ministry of Commerce.

The petition must indicate the name, particulars and domicile of the Panamanian attorney or the law firm representing the applicant, as well as the names and addresses of its licensees and/or authorized distributors in the Republic of Panama.

The registration charges were submitted and officially approved by the Board of Directors of the CFZ Administration on June 11, 1998.


The most relevant provisions of the Executive Decree No. 79 of August 1, 1997 are:

-This Decree affords the trademark registrant with an additional protection, since it gives the CFZ Administration Office the power to initiate an infringement action, on its own motion, upon receipt of an order from a competent authority or upon receipt of a denunciation by the interested party.

-The Decree creates the Intellectual Property Department at the CFZ Administration where the owners of marks registered in the Republic of Panama may obtain an additional registration for its marks.

-The registration at the Intellectual Property Department at the CFZ Administration will be valid for the same time as the national registration (ten years), and may be renewed indefinitely for the same period of time.

-The trademark registrant may file samples of original goods, in order to facilitate the investigations of the CFZ Administration officials.

-The owner of the mark is the only person authorized to record the licensees before the Intellectual Property Department of the CFZ ADMINISTRATION. However, the license agreements recorded before the Trademark Office, may be recorded at said Department by the licensee with certified copy of the recording Resolution issued by the Trademark Office.

-After a retention of suspected counterfeit merchandise takes place, the following persons must be served:

  • the owner of the intellectual property right, its registered attorney, its authorized distributor or its registered licensee, in accordance with the particulars recorded before said Department.
  • the consignee of the merchandise.

The service of notice will be completed by means of an edict fixed at the Intellectual Property Department of the CFZ Administration and at the Trademark Office, for a term of five (5) business days. The service will be deemed completed after these five (5) business days.

If the interested party does not appear before the CFZ Administration within the specified legal term, the edict will be published in a national newspaper for two (2) consecutive days. In any event, if the interested party does not appear, the merchandise will be released thirty (30) days, counted as of the date of the retention, except when the CFZ ADMINISTRATION proceeds ex officio in which case the file would be transferred to the competent District Attorney's Office.

-Depending on the nature of the products, the interested party may request samples of the retained merchandise.

-The interested party will have a term of five (5) business days, counted as of the date of receipt of the samples, to file a brief establishing the reasons for the opposition to the transit of said merchandise. Along with this brief, the petitioner must post a bond for the amount fixed by the CFZ ADMINISTRATION. If no opposition is filed against the transit of the retained merchandise, the products will be released, except when the CFZ ADMINISTRATION proceeds ex officio.

-Within the three (3) working days, following the date of posting the aforesaid bond, the case will be sent to the competent District Attorney's office for the initiation of the pertaining criminal investigation.

-Any person has the power to file a denunciation before the CFZ ADMINISTRATION, to obtain the inspection and retention of the merchandise that may be infringing intellectual property rights by specifying the information regarding the description of the merchandise, the consignee, container, port of entrance and exit in the country and/or any other detail that may facilitate the identification of said merchandise.

-The person making the denunciation must post a US$2,000.00 bond. Once the infringement merchandise has been retained, if necessary, the bond will have to be adjusted in order to comply with the percentage of the appraisal determined by CFZ ADMINISTRATION, which can be up to 50% of the appraisal of the retained merchandise. Common practice is to establish 25% of the official appraisal.

-In the event that no infringement merchandise is found, the US$2,000.00 bond will be retained for a period of three (3) months, in order to pay the damages sustained by the consignee, if such claim is filed. If no claim is filed within this term, the bond will be returned.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

For further information please contact Ramon R. Benedetti at Benedetti & Benedetti on Tel: +(507) 263 4444, Fax: +(507) 264 5962/+(507) 269 1474 or email: Click Contact Link

Visit the Benedetti & Benedetti website at Click Contact Link

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