Sao Tome and Principe - Protection of Property Rights STP - Property Rights
STP guarantees private property rights, and authorities must provide fair, adequate, and effective payment in advance before expropriating property. U.S. companies have not raised property rights concerns with the Embassy.
Intellectual Property Rights
U.S. companies have not raised intellectual property rights concerns with the Embassy. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the World Intellectual Property Organization’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
Resources for Rights Holders
Economic and Commercial Officer, U.S. Embassy Libreville
+241 0145 7000
For a list of local lawyers, see: http://libreville.usembassy.gov/legal_information/attorneys-in-sao-tome--principe.html.
Protecting Intellectual Property
The Department of Commerce in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism handles patents and copyrights.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property in Sao Tome and Principe
Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in Sao Tome & Principe. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP may be protected differently in Sao Tome & Principe than in the United States. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Sao Tome & Principe, under local laws. For example, your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Sao Tome & Principe. There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer copyright protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions.
Granting patents generally is based on a first-to-file, first-in-right basis. Similarly, registering trademarks is based on a first-to-file, first-in-right basis, so you should consider how to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Sao Tome & Principe market. It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. government cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Sao Tome & Principe. It is the responsibility of the rights' holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Sao Tome & Principe law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
While the U.S. Government stands ready to assist, there is little we can do if the rights holders have not taken these fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IP in a timely fashion. Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the U.S. government can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit. In no instance should U.S. government advice be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.
It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in Sao Tome & Principe require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Sao Tome & Principe laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.
It is also recommended that small and medium-size companies understand the importance of working together with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations, both Sao Tome & Principe or U.S.-based. These include:
- The U.S. Chamber and local American Chambers of Commerce
- National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
- International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
- International Trademark Association (INTA)
- The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
- International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
- Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
- IP Resources
A wealth of information on protecting IP is freely available to U.S. rights holders. Some excellent resources for companies regarding intellectual property include the following:
- For information about patent, trademark, or copyright issues -- including enforcement issues in the US and other countries -- call the STOP! Hotline: 1-866-999-HALT or visit www.STOPfakes.gov.
- For more information about registering trademarks and patents (both in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries), contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at: 1-800-786-9199, or visit http://www.uspto.gov/.
- For more information about registering for copyright protection in the United States, contact the U.S. Copyright Office at: 1-202-707-5959, or visit http://www.copyright.gov/.
- For more information about how to evaluate, protect, and enforce intellectual property rights and how these rights may be important for businesses, please visit the “Resources” section of the STOPfakes website at http://www.stopfakes.gov/resources.
- For information on obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights and market-specific IP Toolkits visit: www.stopfakes.gov/businesss-tools/country-ipr-toolkits. The toolkits contain detailed information on protecting and enforcing IP in specific markets and also contain contact information for local IPR offices abroad and U.S. government officials available to assist SMEs.
Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has positioned IP attachés in key markets around the world. You can get contact information for the IP attaché who covers STP at: http://www.uspto.gov/ip/global/attache.