Panama: Collective Trademarks and Designations of Origin

Published on Feb 25, 2024

Due to its unique geographical position and climatic diversity, the Republic of Panama offers significant potential for the development of a plurality of industries, ranging from large companies to small producers. This article aims to focus on the latter and how they can use distinctive signs enshrined in Panamanian intellectual property legislation – such as guarantee marks and designations of origin – as elements that enhance development, allowing them to maximize the benefits of their local products.

I. Introduction of concepts

Collective Marks
In general terms, a trademark is understood to be any sign, word, combination of these elements or any other means that, by its nature, is capable of individualizing a product or service in commerce.1 Depending on their characteristics, trademarks are differentiated into various types or classifications. In this sense, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines collective marks as those marks owned and used by the members of a collective.2 In the specific case of Panamanian law, collective marks are signs that may serve to distinguish the origin, material, mode of manufacture or other common characteristics of goods or services produced or provided by the members of a particular association. This type of trademark makes it possible to differentiate these products or services in the market from those produced or provided by third parties and which are not part of said association.3 In other words, the foregoing means that any association of producers, manufacturers, traders or service providers or any non-profit association is able to apply for the registration of collective marks to differentiate, in the market, the set of products or services of its members or associates, from the products or services of those who are not part of the applicant association.4

To ensure the purposes described above for the benefit of the association, the application for registration of a collective mark must include a regulation of use clearly indicating the identification data of the applicant association, the persons authorized to use the mark, as well as the conditions of membership of the association and of use of the mark and the reasons why the use of the mark may be prohibited to a member of the association.5 The foregoing represents the fundamental element that allows the owner association of the collective mark to sanction any situation of non-compliance with the misuse of the trademark by its members, as well as by persons not authorized to do so. Finally, collective marks are very personal, as they cannot be transferred to third parties, nor will their use be authorized to those who are not officially recognized by the association.6

Designations of Origin
On the other hand, WIPO defines appellations of origin as signs or seals of quality that are used for products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, characteristics or a reputation derived primarily from their place of origin.7 This is a concept also developed in Panamanian law, where it is considered as the geographical designation of a country, a region or a locality, which serves to designate a product originating from them and whose quality or characteristics are due exclusively or essentially to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors.8

Among the most characteristic and well-known designations of origin are Champagne or Tequila, Rioja, Cognac, or Scotch Whisky, which are alcoholic beverages that, in order to be considered as such, must meet certain standards or be produced in a particular geographical region and, by the mere fact of having it, can confer added value and prestige to the product in question.

Both distinctive signs can be a valuable tool to boost local production. On the one hand, collective marks can give a sense of shared identity to a specific group or association, since they can differentiate their products in the market, in a controlled manner, giving them legal protection and uniform standards for their use, which can help them enter new markets and thus enhance their profits. On the other hand, designations of origin guarantee the authenticity and quality of products from a geographical area, generating added value and opening the possibility of entering markets or making themselves known by select consumers.

II. Example cases in Panama

Once both concepts have been properly addressed, it is undeniable that both collective marks and designations of origin can represent a vehicle for the growth of local production, promoting the sustainable development of sectors that have historically encountered obstacles to this end, such as artisans or small local producers.

To exemplify the above, we proceed to present practical cases of success of the Panamanian reality.

Cafe Palmira & Cafe Boquete
The district of Boquete, in Panama's Chiriqui province, is known for having a temperate climate, which is conducive to coffee cultivation. From that location, the Asociación Café de Conservación y Otros Rubros (ACCOR), carried out a training process with WIPO to seek to improve the commercial conditions of quality coffee producers and thus take their product to various local and international markets.9 In this sense, in 2012 this association managed to register the collective trademark CAFÉ DE PALMIRA PANAMÁ & DISEÑO.10 Additionally, in 2013 the Asociación de Productores de Café de Alta Calidad de Boquete (APACAB) managed to get the Directorate of the Industrial Property Registry (DIGERI) to grant the designation of origin for Boquete Coffee, thus certifying the unique quality of the product they produce.

Although the recent success of Panamanian coffee cannot be attributed exclusively to these two milestones, they have undoubtedly contributed to the international recognition of this product, mainly in the Boquete region, since today it is associated with quality and prestige; This has resulted in what was initially a subsistence activity, today is a thriving and growing industry.

Piñas de la Chorrera
La Chorrera is a town located west of the Panamanian capital. Being located in savannah lands, having a warm climate and torrential rains, its grasslands favor the harvests of various fruits, including pineapple, being the one harvested in this province one of the most recognized, so much so that the Dorium Tropical Gold pineapple brand, originally from the District of La Chorrera, was chosen as "flavor of the year 2023”, after more than 1,900 Spanish consumers differentiated it for its high quality.11

Prior to this important milestone, as it was a widespread crop in this region, small producers historically sold their pineapple crops individually to wholesale exporters, which did not give them notoriety or ensure attractive profit margins. For this reason, it is noteworthy the work carried out by WIPO at the time, together with the Asociación Agroindustrial Nacional de Productores y Exportadores de Piña (AANPEP),12 in the creation of the collective mark "PIÑAS DE LA CHORRERA - PANAMA Y DISEÑO", with the aim of strengthening the control of the producers of Chorrera, since as an organization they can establish clear guidelines for the use and commercialization of their brand.

III. Conclusions

There are many different elements that affect how to get the best out of an economic or industrial activity. In this sense, protecting intellectual property assets can be a valuable tool to strengthen the position of certain products, improve their perception among consumers and strengthen their long-term growth. Obtaining a collective trademark can be a good alternative for an association, whether large or small, that seeks to obtain legal protection to be able to differentiate its product in the market, establishing clear guidelines for its commercialization, which can lead to good reputation, trust and added value for its products. On the other hand, obtaining a designation of origin can help guarantee the authenticity and quality of a specific product, giving it added value, which can lead to access to select markets, including promoting tourism and local economic development of the place where it comes from.


1. Law No. 35 of 10 May 1996, article 89.
4. Law No. 35 of 10 May 1996, article 113.
5. Law No. 35 of 10 May 1996, article 114.
6. Law No. 35 of 10 May 1996, article 116.
8. Law No. 35 of 10 May 1996, article 131.3.
9. Otaegi, Leire; Panama: Three Brands for Development. WIPO Magazine. 2012.
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10. Financial Capital Writing. Producers in Boquete register Café Palmira. 2013.
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11. Financial Capital Writing. Panamanian pineapple variety is chosen as "flavor of the year 2023" in Spain. 2023.
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12. Otaegi, Leire; Panama: Three Brands for Development. WIPO Magazine. 2012.
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The information provided by ARIAS® is presented for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking advice from professional advisers.

Jorge Ortega Centella - Associate, Arias Panama.