The Government of Belize, in one fell swoop, acceded to six (6) major international treaties concerning Intellectual Property (IP), through the Belize Intellectual Property Office (BELIPO) representative, present at the General Assemblies of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in late September 2018. Five of the six treaties were copyright-related, and will be the foundation for updating of the Copyright Act in Belize, which commenced in 2000. These treaties are:
- The International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms & Broadcasting Organizations (“Rome Convention”);
- The WIPO Copyright Treaty (“WCT”);
- The WIPO Performances & Phonograms Treaty (“WPPT”);
- The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (“Beijing Treaty”); and
- The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Disabled or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”)
The various provisions in these treaties, once adopted into Belizean law, will provide added protection and meet modern global standards for all copyright owners, with added impact on live performers, music producers and broadcasters. The WCT & WPPT (together known as the WIPO Internet Treaties) will modernize the legislation to include matters of infringement through “wireless” means, which adds coverage and recognition of rights concerning technology, not contemplated before in the Copyright Act. The Marrakesh Treaty adds much needed exemptions to the Copyright Act to allow for conversion of some works into formats that are suitable for those with print disabilities. The sixth treaty acceded to by Belize is the “Geneva (1999) Act of the Hague Agreement concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs”. This will allow applications for industrial design protection to be filed into an international database from BELIPO’s location. It can also allow for registration of foreign industrial designs in Belize using the Hague system, without additional steps contemplated in regular local registration.
Belize’s steps towards compliance with global standards of intellectual property are in line with the recommendations of the National IP Strategy, which though not yet approved by Belize’s Parliament, is guiding the actions of BELIPO as it aims to strengthen the IP landscape. CILGlobal IP’s In-House Attorney, Marissa Longsworth, in an individual capacity, was the consultant who authored the National IP Strategy, with WIPO’s support and final approval. These positive steps are not only expected to help Belizeans to find ways to generate value from their IP domestically and internationally, but also to increase business and investor confidence with an environment where the creativity and innovation of others are respected and can be enforced with laws which are in line with global expectations.