Carnival Needs Bold Decisions to Protect IP

Spicemas Corporation

World Intellectual Property Day is observed annually by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on 26 April. In 2012, on that day, Grenada’s copyright legislation came into effect to mark the significant and importance of intellectual property towards the development of the economy.

26 April 2012, provided creators — whose work falls into the category of work to be copyrighted — an opportunity to seek guidance and at the same time be comforted that the state decision makers, who are primarily parliamentarians, provided the legal framework for protection.

I sat in the Parliament in 2011 when the legislation was presented by then Senator Arley Gill. He made an emotional plea for all persons  — whether working directly or indirectly within the creative industry or sector — to acquaint themselves with the legislation. At that time, then opposition Senator Gregory Bowen, who is presently a government minister, not only supported the call by Gill, but made a plead for the government of the day to go around the country and use a loud speaker to inform the entire country about the harsh penalties for those who violate the copyright law.

Intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time. Common types of intellectual property rights include: copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets.

Grenada is once again preparing for the annual carnival season when the issue of copyright always raises its head. Hundreds of calypsonians with ‘hit songs’ suddenly feel the pinch from pirates, and for some strange reason, they continue to say ‘something needs to be done’.

Well, I make bold to say that government has done its share by creating the legal framework for those involved in the music business and in general the ‘work of carnival’. Grenada’s copyright legislation makes specific reference to ‘work of carnival’ to get special protection, but the bigger question is: what are the structures in place to provide band leaders — and those who work tirelessly to make carnival that wonderful masterpiece of art — with the protection they deserve?

I dare to say that the Spicemas Corporation (SMC) board of directors needs to take and implement some bold actions, and let those who exploit the system for so many years know that things have changed in the name of protection.

There are many companies and businesses that have received, and continue to receive, profits over the years as a result of carnival, and it time for the status quo to change. These are the same bunches who give nothing or very little towards partnership and sponsorship for carnival activities.

One of the exploits of the systems, are those who engage in ambush marketing and violate creators of costumes — not by taking photos for private use, but for commercial interest. It’s time that at least these two situations are properly resolved among all the players.

The Trademark Act provides for the legal registration of words or symbols to represent a company or product. I was very impressed when I saw that action was taken and the SMC trademarked the names of activities organised by the Carnival Corporation. Not only has the SMC trademarked its logo, but it has also trademarked a number of events, slogans and names of activities associated with Spicemas.

These include the words: Spicemas, Children’s Carnival Frolic, Bacchanal Friday, Pantastic Saturday, Monday Nite Mas, Majestic Thursday, Vieuxcorps, Spice Island Bacchanal, Spice Island Carnival, 473 Carnival, Wata Soca, Jab Jab and Short Knee. They are all registered under Class 41 of the World Intellectual Property Nice Classification (NCL). The NCL is an international classification of goods and services. Class 41 covers education, providing of training, entertainment, sporting and cultural activities.

This protection means that permission must be sought from the Board of the Spicemas Corporation if any promoter wants to use the words or the trademark in promotions and other events. I trust that the necessary monitor committee will be in place to ensure that violators are penalised.

The entertainment sector has proven to be one that can create both short term and long term employment, seasonal as well permanent job security, but this can only be truly realised when all the stakeholders come together. This diverse sector can reel in real revenue, not just for investors but also for government.

I therefore think it’s time that government work along with the stakeholders in the sector to ensure that the right thing is done in accordance with standard entertainment sector practice regionally and internationally.

By Linda Straker

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