Filing a trade mark application in the South Pacific Islands is a crucial step for businesses looking to protect their brands in this diverse and dynamic region. With a unique blend of cultures, languages, and legal systems, understanding the complexities of trade mark registration in the South Pacific Islands is essential for safeguarding intellectual property rights. This article provides an in-depth overview of the trade mark application process, highlighting key considerations, legal frameworks, and practical tips to navigate the intricacies of trade mark filing effectively.

Filing a trade mark application in the South Pacific Islands requires careful attention to the specific legal requirements of each jurisdiction.


1. Formal Registration Systems:

  • Some Pacific Island nations, like Fiji and Papua New Guinea, have formal trade mark registration systems. Golja Haines & Friend (GHF) can submit applications through local agents or directly to the relevant authorities.
  • These systems provide legal protection and exclusive rights to the registered trade mark owner.

2. Common Law Use:

  • Smaller islands, such as the Cook Islands, may not have a formal registration process.
  • Instead, they rely on common law use and the publication of cautionary notices in local newspapers every 1-2 years.

3. Cautionary Notices:

  • Cautionary notices serve as warnings to potential infringers.
  • They inform others that a specific mark is in use and protected, even without formal registration.
  • Publishing these notices helps prevent unauthorized use.


Key Jurisdictions in the South Pacific

Key jurisdictions include:

  • Fiji
  • Vanuatu
  • Samoa
  • French Polynesia
  • Guam
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Nauru
  • Kiribati
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga


Country-Specific Considerations

A summary of the protection available in some key Pacific Island nations:

1. Fiji: Operates under an independent trade mark registration system. Applications are lodged via local agents, and service marks are not covered.

2. Vanuatu: Has its own independent registration system based on the Vanuatu Trademarks Act 2003. It is not part of the Madrid Agreement or the Madrid Protocol.

3. Samoa: Also operates under an independent registration system, with applications lodged directly with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Labour through local agents.

4. French Polynesia: Covered by French national registrations and International Registrations designating France.

5. Guam: Covered by United States registrations.

6. Papua New Guinea: Has its own independent registration system, with applications lodged directly with the Intellectual Property Office of PNG. However, a local agent is still required to be the address for service on the trade mark applications.

7. Nauru the Nauruan Trademark Act 2019 has recently come into force and does provide a framework in which trademarks can be registered and protected, however given the recent introduction of the legislation, it is likely there will be some technical issues and possibly further amendments in the future. It is not possible to file a multi-class application under the current framework so separate applications would be required for each class. A signed authorisation of agent from the client is also required to be filed with the trade mark applications.

8. Kiribati: Requires re-registration of corresponding United Kingdom registrations, with applications lodged directly with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Cooperatives.

9. Solomon Islands Trade mark registrations in the Solomon Islands must be based on a corresponding United Kingdom registration which is re-registered directly with the Registrar General of the Solomon Islands. Multiclass applications are registrable but services marks are not permitted.

10. Tonga: Operates under its own independent registration system, with applications lodged through local agents.

GHF can act directly before the relevant trade marks offices and has strong relationships with officers at the local trade mark offices and local IP Agents in a range of Pacific Island nations to assist us with securing trade mark protection throughout the pacific island region.

General Steps for Filing a Trade mark

1. Pre-Application Research:

  • Trade mark Search: It is recommended that a comprehensive search of the relevant Trade Mark Register be conducted prior to filing to ensure that the proposed trade mark does not conflict with existing trade marks in the relevant pacific island nation. This step is crucial to avoid infringement issues.

2. Application Preparation:

  • Applicant Details: To file the application, the applicant’s name, address, and nationality are required. If the applicant is a company, the company’s registration details will also need to be provided.
  • Trade mark Details: A description of the trade mark is required, including any visual representations (such as logos). Selecting the appropriate classifications for your trade mark is crucial for ensuring comprehensive protection.
  • Supporting Documents: Prepare additional documents such as a power of attorney (if using a local attorney) and a priority document (if claiming priority based on an earlier application filed in another country).

3. Filing the Application:

  • Local Trade mark Office: Submit the application to the trade mark office of the relevant jurisdiction. This can often be done online or via mail.
  • Application Fees: Pay the necessary filing fees. These vary depending on the jurisdiction and the number of classes covered by the application.

4. Examination Process:

  • Formal Examination: The trade mark office will check the application for compliance with formal requirements.
  • Substantive Examination: The office will examine the distinctiveness of the trade mark and any potential conflicts with existing trade marks.
  • Publication: If the application passes the examination, the trade mark is published in the official gazette, allowing third parties to oppose the registration.

5. Opposition Period:

  • Opposition: Third parties have a specified period (usually 3 months) to file an opposition to the trade mark registration.
  • Resolution: If an opposition is filed, it must be resolved through the trade mark office’s dispute resolution process.

6. Registration and Protection:

  • Certificate of Registration: If no opposition is filed or if the opposition is resolved in favor of the applicant, the trade mark is registered, and a certificate of registration is issued.
  • Duration and Renewal: Trademark protection typically lasts for 10 years from the date of registration and can be renewed indefinitely for additional 10-year periods.


The process of filing a trade mark in the South Pacific Islands involves similar steps across different jurisdictions, including searching, applying, examining, publishing, and opposition periods. Despite the common framework, specific requirements and procedures may vary slightly from one island nation to another. It’s advisable to engage with an experienced attorney such as GHF to navigate the local regulations effectively and ensure successful trade mark registration.

If you have further questions or need more details, feel free to contact GHF for more information or an informal chat.