Overview of Costa Rica Trademark Laws

This is a list of International conventions and treaties, laws and regulations in effect pertaining to trademark registration in Costa Rica as of 2021. It is outside of the scope of this article to discuss circulars or administrative resolutions pertaining to trademark prosecution, which alters (and sometimes changes) the scope of a particular provision.

Spanish is the official version of the respective legal texts. No official translation into any other language is provided.

Treaties and International Conventions

Under the Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica, treaties and conventions have a hierarchy above regular law. However, in practice, often laws are not amended to implement the compromises undertaken by the country in the new treaty or convention or take steps to eliminate any discrepancies with internal legislation. In these cases, the administrative authorities often revert to applying the law, despite the contradiction. In such scenario, a party may be forced to seek judicial assistance to enforce the treaty or convention.

  • Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (as of June 10, 1981)
  • The Uruguay Round (GATT, later succeeded by WTO) (as of November 2, 1989)
  • WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) (as of January 1, 1995)
  • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property(as of October 31, 1995)
  • WIPO Joint Recommendation Concerning Provisions on the Protection of Well-Known Marks (as of March 28, 2008)
  • Trademark Law Treaty (as of October 17, 2008)
  • Lisbon Agreement for the Protection of Appellations of Origin (as of July 30, 1997)
  • The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents (Apostille) (as of December 14, 2011)

Costa Rica is also a party to multilateral trade agreements, which define standards for protection of IP beyond other instruments (“TRIP Plus” provision). The two most notable ones are:

  • Costa Rica-México Free Trade Treaty (since 1994)
  • Dominican Republic – Central America – United States of America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) (since November 21, 2007)

The Costa Rica-México Treaty is of particular interest. It contains provisions that may prove especially useful to trademark owners in case of litigation. For instance, the Treaty allows a party that first registered an identical or similar mark, for the identical or similar goods or services, in each of the respective countries to request annulment of the subsequent registration in the other country. In light of the most favored nation treatment principle governing international trade, this provision could have abroad-reaching effect in case of trademark squatting or bad-faith registration of trademarks.

Laws and Regulations

The laws and other legislation included in this section are the mayor and most relevant laws implemented by Costa Rica for the protection of trademarks, trade names and other distinctive signs. There are numerous other laws that include specific provisions that are relevant for certain industries (for instance, laws pertaining to the use of trademark for banks, insurance companies and financial institutions, or for identifying products or sanitary or regulatory interest):

  • Trademarks and Other Distinctive Signs Law (No. 7978 of January 6, 2000)
  • Regulations to the Trademarks and Other Distinctive Signs Law (Executive Decree No. 30233-J of February 20, 2002)
  • Observance Procedures of Intellectual Property Rights Law (No. 8033 of October 12, 2001)
  • Administrative Rules on Prosecution of Appeals before the Administrative Registration Court (of November 28, 2016)
  • Regulations to the Trademarks and Other Distinctive Signs Law Concerning Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin (Executive Decree No. 33743-J of March 14, 2007)
  • Administrative Rules on the Service of the Administrative Registration Court (Executive Decree No. 35456-J of March 30, 2009)
  • Administrative Rule DPI-0003-2019 on Recognition of Fame or Notoriety (of June 28, 2019)
  • Regulations to the Uniform Central American Customs Code (Recauca) (Executive Decree No. 42876 of January 28, 2021)
For an official updated version of the legal text, please visit SINALEVI, the National System for Legislation at http://www.pgrweb.go.cr/scij/

The following authorities also maintain their own databases of laws and regulations:

  • Trademark Office: Industrial Property Registry (Registro de la Propiedad Industrial) – Website: rnpdigital.com
  • Trademark Appeal Board: Tribunal Registral Administrativo – Website: tra.go.cr

Shareholder Affidavit of Company Ownership (“RTBF”)

New tax filing requirement by the Costa Rican government pertaining to company ownership.

Update August 2020: Deadline for filing of 2020 due to Covid-19 postponed.

Update May 2020: The final deadline for submission of the 2019 affidavit has been updated.

The Costa Rican Government recently implemented the requirement for legal entities, structures, limited liability companies and corporations domiciled in Costa Rica (with some minor exceptions) of submitting a yearly affidavit pertaining to the details of share ownership and beneficiaries (more info here, in Spanish only).

The information submitted in the affidavit is is to be treated as confidential and will only be used for internal tax purposes, such as controlling payment of capital gains taxes and others, and anti-money laundering.

The filing is referred to in Spanish as the Declaración sobre Registro de Transparencia y Beneficiarios Finales (“RTBF”). There literal translation into English would be “Declaration concerning Transparency Registry and Final Beneficiaries” and is more commonly referred to as the “shareholder declaration” or “shareholder affidavit“.

The deadline for the 2019 declaration is March 31st, 2020. The filing must be done by the end of April every year thereafter or whenever there is a significant change of ownership, which the exception of the 2020 declaration, which has been exempted from filing due to administrative measures concerning Covid-19. The Tax Authorities will automatically pre-load in

Failure to submit the affidavit by these deadlines carries hefty monetary penalties: up to 2% of the entity’s gross income, with a minimum of 3 so-called “base salaries” (each salary is roughly ~$1,000, for a total minimum fine of ~$3,000).

The filing must be done in a secured only platform implemented by the Costa Rican Central Bank (“BCCR”) (available here) by the company’s legal representative. The person that does the filing on behalf of the company must have a government-issued certificate of encryption of digital ID. Foreign nationals without legal residence in Costa Rica normally do not have access to this document.

All clients, especially those without a digital ID, are strongly suggested to contact us to coordinate completion of this requirement.

First published on January 15th, 2020.

Useful links for doing business in Costa Rica

Useful links for doing business in Costa Rica

In recent years, the Costa Rican Government has been pushing its institutions to provide more online services to increase efficiency, transparency and reduce bureaucracy. While there is still a lot of work to be done, many useful tools are already available.

Here we present some examples of free-to-access government websites that are essential for daily business in Costa Rica:

Laws and Regulations

http://www.pgr.go.cr/Scij/Official web site of the Republic’s General Procurator. It publishes laws, regulations, judicial and administrative decisions

http://www.asamblea.go.cr/Official web site of the Legislative Assembly. It contains information on recently approved laws and bills under discussion

http://costarica.eregulations.org/e-Regulations.org. Government-sponsored online database for investment-related procedures, including government procurement, real estate, operating licenses, social security, exports, imports, etc.

Consumer protection and competition

http://www.meic.go.cr/Official web site for the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce. Contains information on consumer protection, labeling requirements, unfair competition and others.

National Registry

http://rnpdigital.comOfficial web site for the National Registry. Records transactions pertaining to legal persons (including corporations and LLC’s), real estate, movable property (namely, vehicles), trademark, patents, and others. This is an invaluable resource for everyday business in Costa Rica. Free registration is required, although certain services do have a cost (payable with credit card).

Costa Rican Consulates abroad, Apostille, Certified Translators

http://www.rree.go.crOfficial web site for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Amongst other things, contains information on Costa Rican Consulates abroad, document apostille procedures, official translators, and document legalization.

Others

http://poder-judicial.go.cr/ – Official web site for Judicial Courts of Costa Rica

http://www.hacienda.go.cr/ – Official web site for the Tax Ministry 

http://www.ccss.sa.cr/ – Official web site for the Social Security System