Costa Rica’s Cannabis Trademark Applications

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On March 1st, 2022, Costa Rica legalized cannabis for medicinal use and commercialization of non-psychoactive hemp, under license. The law approved by the legislature excludes cultivation for personal and recreational use.

The country joins many other countries seeking to incentivize the booming industry of medical cannabis, and an influx of IP owners seeking trademark protection in this changing landscape is expected.

What are the implications for trademark owners?

There are no explicit guidelines by the Costa Rican Industrial Property Registry (“RPI“) for handling cannabis-related trademark applications. As of this writing, about 150 trademark applications have been filed for goods and services including “hemp”, “cannabis”, “THC”, “CBD” and related terms across the various classes encompassing the Nice Classification. Of these applications, 37 have been rejected and about two dozen others are currently pending. Most of the applications in this later category have faced misdescriptiveness, genericness or descriptiveness issues.

There are surely a fair number of other applications for trademarks that are meant to cover hemp or cannabis related items, but they do not explicitly include them in the specification. Traditionally, Costa Rican authorities have allowed broad descriptions of goods and services (often, the heading of the respective Nice class is allowed). However, even if allowed, such strategy is not without risks. A lot will depend on how directly related the good or service is to the plant or its psychoactive component. For instance, a trademark registration meant for consultancy services in the field, or for plant fertilizers, will not be as vulnerable as a registration for goods directly related to the substance.

In the specific case of pharmaceuticals, the Administrative Appeal Board (“Tribunal Registral Administrativo“) has ruled that broad descriptions, such as use of the class heading, are unenforceable for failure to identify the actual goods meant to be commercialized under the mark. While this interpretation has questionable legal grounding, it means that marks under these conditions may fail to be cited against a junior application for a similar mark that covers specific items. The trademark owner will not be notified under this particular scenario, leaving the onus on the IP owner to actively monitor filings.

This interpretation has also began seeping into other classes, as well. In particular, the Registry inconsistently requires applicants to specify the nature of goods or services commercialized under Class 35 to allow the registration to move forward. One can also imagine analogous cases for goods of different nature (for instance, chemicals for use in industry). With time, it is likely that the requirement of specificity will continue becoming more enshrined.

Trademarks related to hemp-based textile goods or clothing are unlikely to be scrutinized as zealously as, say, marks covering cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. A refusal based on the nature of the goods or services cannot be discarded, even despite the law. Examiners have considerable leeway in their examination powers. However, in these cases, an applicant may take shelter in Article 7 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property:

The nature of the goods to which a trademark is to be applied shall in no case form an obstacle to the registration of the mark.

This rule is mirrored in Article 15(4) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). The international nature of these instruments grant them it hierarchical superiority to even national law.

The law will come into effect once sanctioned by the Executive Body and published in the official Gazette.

Reforma a Reglamento de Patentes de Invención y Diseños en Costa Rica en Abril de 2014

A partir del 24 de abril de 2014, se implementaron reformas importantes de procedimientos para inscripción de patentes de invención, diseños y modelos ante la Sección de Patentes de Invención del Registro de la Propiedad Industrial de Costa Rica

La reforma es notable por introducir importantes cambios de fondo y forma al pago de anualidades, así como la presentación e inscripción de solicitudes de patentes de invención, diseños industriales y modelos de utilidad. La reforma también consolida práctica adoptadas de facto por para la Oficina de Patentes, pero que carecían de fundamento legal hasta la fecha.

Las reformas fueron emitidas mediante el Decreto Ejecutivo No. 38289-H, publicado en la Gaceta No. 78 del 24 de abril de 2014, la cual reforma el Reglamento a la Ley de Patentes de Invención, Dibujos y Modelos Industriales y Modelos de Utilidad del 12 de diciembre de 1983.

Algunos de los cambios más notables incluyen:

Patentes de Invención y Modelos de Utilidad

  • Dimensiones de los dibujos no pueden exceder 15cm por 15cm (5.90 pulgadas por 5.90 pulgadas) y no pueden contener texto; solo signos de referencia que correspondan a lo indicado en la descripción
  • Los dibujos podrán consistir en fotografías del objeto de la solicitud, siempre que tengan un fondo neutro y sin sombras
  • Las solicitudes manifiestamente improcedentes pueden ser rechazadas de plano, mediante resolución razonada, concediendo la devolución del 50% de la tasa de presentación
  • A petición del solicitante, la publicación de la solicitud puede ser postergada hasta pro doce meses desde la fecha de presentación
  • Es posible solicitar una única prórroga, debidamente justificada, para presentar el poder luego del plazo de 3 meses después de la presentación de la solicitud
  • Ante un examen de fondo adverso, el solicitante tiene 15 días para solicitar una reunión con el examinador para discutir el fondo
  • Las tasas anuales para mantener la vigencia de la patente deberán ser pagadas por años adelantados. La tasa que debe abonarse por la inscripción y expedición del certificado, exonera el pago de la primera anualidad. La segunda anualidad y las siguientes que se adeuden desde la presentación de la solicitud y hasta la fecha de la concesión de la patente, deberán ser canceladas en un plazo máximo de dos meses contados desde la fecha de concesión.

Diseños y Modelos Industriales

  • Se reforma el concepto de originalidad. Un dibujo o modelo industrial es original en tanto su aspecto exterior se derive de un esfuerzo creativo individual del creador y no implique un nuevo cambio de colorido o forma de modelos o dibujos ya conocidos


Tel. (506) 2221-9058 o 2222-1785
Fax (506) 2222-6054

Amendment to Patent & Design Regulations in Costa Rica as of April, 2014

As of April 24, 2014, several new important changes practice before the Costa Rican Patent Office regarding Patents of Invention, Designs and Industrial Models & Utility Models came into effect.

The amendment is notable for introducing new  formal and substantive changes to payment of annuities, prosecution and filing of applications for registration of patents of invention, designs and industrial models and utility models. The amendment also consolidates de facto practices adopted by the Patent Office that did not have prior legal basis.

The Regulations were issued via Executive Decree No. 38289-H, published in official Gazette No. 78 of April 24, 2014, which amends and expands the existing Regulations to the Patents Law.

Some of the most notable changes include:

Patents of Intention and Utility Models

  • Dimensions of drawings may not exceed 15cm by 15 cm (5.90 inches by 5.90 inches) and shall not contain any text; only reference numbers to the corresponding text in the specification.
  • Drawings may consist of photographs of the subject matter of the invention, as long as they have a neutral background and no shadows.
  • Applications that are notoriously deficient may be automatically refused. 50% of the filing fee will be returned to the applicant.
  • One single extension of time to submit the Power of Attorney may be requested, as long as sufficient justification is provided.
  • At the request of the applicant, publication can be delayed for up to 12 months after the filing date.
  • Applicant facing an adverse examination report have 1 month to file a formal response. Within the first 15 days of said deadline, the applicant may choose to meet with the examiner to discuss the issue.
  • Payment of the grant fee for patents and utility models is assimilated to payment of the first patent annuity. However, at the same time, the applicant must pay second and subsequent annuities as of the date of presentation of the application. Failure to pay will cause the Patent Office to initiate legal action for collecting the amounts owed by the applicant.

Designs and industrial models:

  • The concept of novelty was changed substantially. A design or industrial model is deemed to be original as long as the exterior appearance is due to the creative effort of an individual creator and does not imply a change in color or shape of known designs and industrial models.


Tel. (506) 2221-9058 or 2222-1785
Fax (506) 2222-6054