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A former legal adviser to the Ministry of Finance says The Bahamas must come of age when it comes to trademark laws, intellectual property and the rules that govern cyberspace if it wants to establish itself as a serious global player - or risk being left behind.
Rowena Bethel, who now works as a consultant on matters concerning the Internet, e-commerce law and cross-border cooperation, said the vast majority of Bahamians don't
understand the importance of these issues.
"The situation in The Bahamas is our trademark law is from 1906," he told Guardian Business.
"It was drafted before people even dreamt about the Internet. Its power needs to be recognized and we must update our laws. When you live in a global environment, and you wish to take advantage of being a global citizen, you must play by global rules."
The comment comes after Chanel, the luxury retailer, filed a legal suit against 399 websites in the U.S. this week, charging that the online retailers are infringing on its trademarks and selling counterfeit goods.
Although the suit was filed in a U.S. district court, there is one problem - lawyers contend many of these websites operate out of The Bahamas, among other "foreign jurisdictions with lax trademark enforcement systems".
The suit also contended that the websites use search optimization strategies to dupe online consumers and lead them astray from the legitimate, mainstream vendors.
Chanel is requesting an injunction against the defendants, stopping them from infringing and counterfeiting. They also wish to seize, and perhaps disable, the domain names of the perpetrators.
Questions were submitted to a Chanel spokesperson in the U.S., but Guardian Business didn't receive a response before press time.
Bethel said this particular case is a perfect example of the need to update trademark laws in The Bahamas.
Whenever a website is registered, she explained, you apply for a domain name and provide personal details.
"I suspect that's how the lawyers from Chanel were able to find these websites," she added. "They then would know who the owners are and who is registered. The fact they are in The Bahamas does not stop them from suing them in the U.S."
With higher developed trademark and infringement laws in the U.S., Chanel is able to take legal action against Bahamas-based websites if the products are accessible to American consumers. In other words, if Americans can buy the Chanel products, U.S. courts have jurisdiction to prosecute.
Cases like these are damaging to the reputation of The Bahamas as a serious exporter / importer of goods, especially as the country seeks full privileges and membership with the World Trade Organization, she said.
Counterfeit luxury goods have been a persistent problem in The Bahamas.
In September 2010, seven Bahamian straw vendors were arrested at JFK airport in New York and charged for possession of counterfeit goods.
The arrests were a drop in the bucket in a more larger issue, Bethel said, as the sale of these products continues to be quite common on Bahamian streets - with the new downtown straw market preparing to open its doors in the coming days.
Meanwhile, in July of this year, the Customs Management Bill was passed by the government to create measures that would allow Customs to confiscate counterfeit goods at the border, or detain and dispose of them if they make it into the country and are later found.
Winston Rolle, the Chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), said the fighting against intellectual property and counterfeiting is a working process and more work must be done.
"We realize there is a deficiency here," he told Guardian Business.
"We not only need to protect Chanel, but ourselves."
Rolle revealed that the BCCEC is currently working on a virtual platform for the handicraft industry, which will source and quality control Bahamian goods.
Incredibly, he pointed out that, on the world stage, there is very little the country can do if a foreign manufacturer claimed its merchandise was: "Made in The Bahamas."
"We need to have strong intellectual property laws to protect our industry, from others getting their hands on it and saying products are Bahamian made," he added.
"People need to not just see the Chanel side - it's also to protect our own manufacturers."
For now, as it relates to Chanel, Bethel felt the injunction will likely go in favor of the luxury brand.
She anticipated the websites will be forced to close down or cease their activities and further penalties, including fines and "handsome damages" could be down the road.
- Genre : Comedy, Drama
- Rating :
A story of a man who fakes his own death and assumes a new identity in order to escape his life, who then moves in with a woman who is also trying to leave her past behind....
- Genre : Horror, Thriller
- Rating : TBC - To Be Classified
When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back....
WITH just over two months until value added tax is officially introduced in the Bahamas, National Insurance Board Director Rowena Bethel said the organisation has identified an internal committee to ensure that the organisation is ready once the tax is implemented.
By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
WITH a crowd of over 200 people in attendance, the 2011/2012 Heart Ball Committee hosted its annual Fashion Show and Tea Party at Government House,
Under the theme, "Flowers of The Caribbean," this fun-filled afternoon consisted of a fashion show, hat parade, and table decorating contest, with fine teas, and hors d'oeuvres. Jewellery from the Nadia Campbell collection was also showcased at the event with art by Rick Carey.
"This year the main thing we did differently was to increase our ticket prices and decrease the number of tables so that the guest who attended, could enjoy themselves," said Coretta Owen, ...
- Genre : Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Rating : T - 15yrs and Older
John is an extraordinary teen, masking his true identity and passing as a typical high school student to elude a deadly enemy seeking to destroy him. Three like him have already been killed ... he is Number Four....
Moody's has released a damning assessment of the government's campaign to gain majority control of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).
In a 26-page report on Moody's global credit outlook, covering nations from China to Slovakia, The Bahamas earned an entire page on the controversial issue. According to the rating agency, the move by the Bahamian government represents a double credit negative - both for the country, and the parent company of BTC, Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).
In fact, Moody's called the government's buyout negotiations "erratic", and from a bird's eye perspective, damaging to foreign investment.
"The buyout negotiations demonstrate the government's erratic approach to its participation in the telecom sector, and is a reversal of the government's previous position on divesting and liberalizing the sector," the report stated. "We had expected the liberalization of the telecommunications sector to occur in 2014. Such an about face is a signal of broader policy uncertainty and a deterioration of the operating climate for foreign investors."
From a financial point of view, Moody's felt the fiscal costs of acquiring two percent equity would be "relatively modest", should CWC be willing to sell. But analysts in New York insisted that the purchase, penalty fees and potential litigation costs place the economy in jeopardy "at a time when its finances are deteriorating". With these factors in mind, Moody's assigned a "credit negative" to the policy.
The report also included broader implications concerning CWC.
If CWC was compelled to sell a two percent stake, which Moody's referred to as a "probable scenario", the company would likely push for continued managerial control of BTC. Losing that equity interest, however, would be a "significant credit negative" for CWC, preventing the company from being able to fully consolidate BTC in its audited accounts.
Last August, Moody's downgraded the country's outlook from stable to negative (A3 negative), while affirming the A3 government bond ratings. According to the rating agency, the Bahamian fiscal deficit will be around 7.4 percent of GDP in 2012, and government debt has accelerated to over 51 percent of GDP from around 30 percent in 2007.
The announcement by Wall Street, sure to send shockwaves through The Bahamas, offers perhaps the dramatic significant twist yet in the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) campaign to gain majority control of the country's only mobile services provider.
CWC purchased a 51 percent stake in BTC in April 2011 from the previous administration.
Since coming to power in May, the PLP has stayed the course on a key campaign promise. On Monday, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced a hand-picked delegation to negotiate with CWC executives later this month.
Businessman Franklyn Wilson, former Attorney General Sean McWeeney, attorney Rowena Bethel, and former BTC CEO Leon Williams make up the Bahamian team.
Shortly thereafter, Moody's announced it had begun a probe into the government's negotiations with the parent company of BTC. Edward Al-Hussainy, assistant vice president and analyst at Moody's, questioned how the PLP intended to pay for the majority interest, and noted that the reasons behind the takeover were "not clear".
The official report from Moody's, obtained by this newspaper, comes just two days after the apparent probe.
Christie characterized the rating agency's probe as "unfair".
"You can do the mathematics and find out if two percent will give us the majority of interest, you can do the mathematics based on what they paid for it," the prime minister said. "They can't come to me with a special value and so forth. That's why we are going to have discussions. We are motivated by what we regard as the best interests of the Bahamian people."
The rating agency, however, has cast doubt on CWC's cooperation with any talks over giving up majority control.
"BTC accounted for 12 percent of CWC's fully consolidated revenues and 10 percent of its EBITDA fiscal 2012, which ended March 31, and is CWC's only Caribbean asset that is currently performing strong," the report added.
The rest of the company's operations are under pressure, Moody's claimed, so BTC factors heavily in its future plans. Tony Rice, the CEO of CWC, recently noted during a conference call with investors that he intends on convincing the Bahamian government that the company is in the best interest of the country.
Nassau, Bahamas -
following is a statement by the Hon. Fred Mitchell, MP
I was hoping that the MP for Montagu would
have graced us with his presence and contributed to this debate. Alas
we will not have the benefit of his sagacity on this occasion.
wish to correct the name of one of the members of the House of Assembly
that I gave last week with Milo Butler, Rufus Ingraham, T.A Toote, A.F.
Adderley and others, I gave the name Cyril Bowen. It should have been
Ernest Linkhard Bowen
He is the relative of our Chairman and a former MP in this place Bradley B Roberts
wish to begin by extending my condolences to the family of the late Roy
Davis, known as Mr. Kiwanis. He was a family friend but I mention him
for what the Anglicans call doing the things that make for peace and
build up the common life.
Freeport, GB, Bahamas - Next week the Grand
Bahama Chamber of Commerce will continue its relevant and informative
monthly luncheons with special guest The Right Honourable Owen S. Arthur,
M.P. and former Barbados Prime Minister.
Arthur will address the Grand Bahama business community
on Monday, July 15th at their July luncheon, held at the
Pelican Bay Resort which is sold out for the event. "We are
honoured to have such a renowned guest who will speak to us on the Value
Added Tax system which is soon to be...