Protect your intellectual creations under copyright law 

June 11, 2024

Author: Eduardo Rodríguez

Which works are protected by copyright in the Dominican Republic?
In the Dominican Republic, copyright covers the protection of any literary, artistic or scientific work that is susceptible of disclosure, fixation or reproduction; by any existing means or procedure or that is about to be invented.

This broad definition encompasses a variety of creations of human inventiveness, including creations that can be protected under copyright and industrial property legislation. Therefore, in the Dominican Republic there is a delicate dividing line between industrial property and copyright.

Importance of protecting your creations under Law No. 65-00
The copyright law explicitly establishes that the works included within its scope of protection are protected from the moment of their creation, regardless of the format or medium in which they are presented.

However, the legislation recommends that the corresponding registrations are made at the National Copyright Office. This process ensures that the work obtains a date of certainty, which simplifies the defense of your copyrights.

The main purpose of this registration is to verify the originality of the work and to confirm that the applicant is indeed its creator.

Copyright expands the protection of your creations
The intersection between Industrial Property and Copyright is an important issue. For example: in the design of textile patterns for houses, patterns can be protected under industrial property and, under copyright.

Although copyright protection may be more lax when obtained, owners may register their creations with the National Copyright Office (ONDA) to extend their protection.

Another interesting example is industrial designs. Although their protection and registration depend on complying with the criteria of Law No. 20-00, these designs are also protected under copyright law.

Likewise, using lines to create a pattern can be protected by both trademark and copyright law, which evidences the complexity and fluidity of the laws that safeguard intellectual creations in various contexts and forms.

Defense mechanisms of copyright vs. industrial property
In the Dominican Republic, industrial property and copyright operate under different premises; however, both prohibit third parties from using the creation or distinctive sign without the express authorization of its owner.

Both the Industrial Property Law No. 20-00 and the Copyright Law No. 65-00 protect these figures through judicial and administrative mechanisms, which are designed to defend industrial property rights and copyrights.

Articles 73 and 74 of Law 20-00, establish specific prohibitions to register trademarks, commercial names, commercial slogans, among others. We emphasize that article 74 in its paragraph “g”, includes a prohibition against the registration of signs that infringe copyrights.

Thus, a sign whose registration constitutes a copyright violation may be subject to administrative and judicial actions provided for in Law 20-00. Such actions may result in its rejection, annulment or the imposition of more severe sanctions; considering that such violation constitutes an act of unfair competition.

Likewise, trademark protection and copyright protection have different natures. In trademarks, protection is practically imprescriptible, with the only obligation to renew the right every ten years. In copyright, the duration of the economic rights is contained in the law and extends up to 70 years after the death of the author.

Penalties for copyright infringements
Dominican copyright legislation establishes severe penalties for those who violate the economic and moral rights of an author. These sanctions may range from six (6) months to three (3) years imprisonment, in addition to fines ranging from 50 to 1,000 minimum wages. These punitive measures do not exclude the possibility of civil suits to compensate for damages caused.

Similarly, for those who infringe rights related to trademarks, trade names, appellations of origin, geographical indications, etc., the law stipulates identical penalties, ranging from six (6) months to three (3) years of imprisonment and fines from 50 to 1,000 minimum wages. As in the previous case, these actions also open the door to civil lawsuits for the compensation of damages inflicted.

Regarding situations where an individual owns an invention patent, utility model or industrial design, Law 20-00 is limited to recognizing compensations through civil proceedings.

Therefore, if a person has protection for an industrial design as a copyright, that person could choose the criminal route to prosecute those who infringe his or her right. In this way, he would obtain a more direct and, potentially, more dissuasive route to protect his creations.

Effective strategy to protect your rights before third parties
The use of copyrights is relatively minor, compared to using trademarks, patents, industrial designs, etc. However, the protection provided by Dominican legislation (although it does not apply in all scenarios), is equal to and -in some cases- exceeds the protection offered by industrial property.

Considering this, we see how copyright plays a fundamental role in defending intellectual creations. This role can be exploited in a preventive and even coercive manner, offering more forceful tools and elements of pressure than those of industrial property.

Therefore, making the pertinent registrations and ensuring the protection provided by Law 20-00 and Law 65-00 (when applicable), represents the most effective strategy for owners, creators or authors to protect their rights before third parties.

This comprehensive approach not only safeguards their creations in a more complete and prolonged manner but also strengthens their position against possible infringements.