Beware of fraudulent invoices regarding your patent application or your trademark registration

INPI Portugal
Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial

In the last years, we have noticed in Europe an increase in the number of fraudulent invoices being sent to users relating to trademarks or patents applications. If you receive an invoice that is unexpected or from an unfamiliar entity, please contact your Industrial Property (IP) Office or attorney before paying the invoice.

While many of the fraudulent invoices are sent via regular mail, some are sent by email. In Brazil, for instance, users are also receiving phone calls from people pretending that they belong to the legal department of the IP Office and that the applicant is at risk of losing his trademark. Typically, the invoices seek payment for various services related to applications: registration fees, filing fees or monitoring fees.

Such invoices —which are intentionally designed to look like real invoices from an official source— have nothing to do with the processing of your patent application or trademark registration, and the services they purport to provide have no value beyond the services already provided by your national, regional office or an international organization, such as WIPO, EPO or EUIPO.

National Patent and Trademark offices, as well as relevant international organisations and user associations, are working to inform users about this trend and to help them avoid falling for such scams. For example, warnings have been posted on several websites that include names of known perpetrating “companies” and examples of misleading letters. The Trademark International Index and Trademark Info Corp. became very popular in Mexico a few years ago.

As regards criminal proceedings, the EUIPO closely cooperated with the Swedish public prosecutor’s office who brought to Court an extensive scam scheme principally targeting EUTM owners. The Court passed four custodial sentences ranging between two months and one year for four of the defendants for attempted aggravated fraud.

The more this practice spreads over the Latin American countries, (in Brazil has some significance), the more important it is for applicants of international trademarks or patents from these countries to be aware of this situation.

If you are a PCT or an International Trademark applicant and you receive one of these invoices, first check WIPO’S warning page and see if it matches any of the examples. If not listed there, send an e-mail to WIPO with a copy so it can be added to the collection.

If you registered by yourself, you are also recommended to contact the National Intellectual Property Office involved to be sure that there is no scam and make a complaint, if afirmative. Most of them provide assistance on this issue (i.e. Brazil), but if you want to know more about what to do in case you receive one of those invoices, do not hesitate to contact our free of charge, confidential, fast Helpline. Our experts will be happy to support you.

And most importantly: Do not pay!

2017 in review: summary of INDECOPI’s innovation in the field of Trademarks

Ernesto Barzola
Lawyer at Barreda & Moller

In recent years, many Intellectual Property Offices of Latin America have been enacting new provisions as to harmonize their IP systems according to the international standards. Countries such as Peru, through the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Intellectual Property (INDECOPI), have implemented new measures in order to improve the efficiency and speed of the registration and granting procedures of IPRs.

In this regard, it must be highlighted that INDECOPI ended 2017 with a total of 34.213 registered trademarks, which represents a grow th of 27,3 % with respect to 2016. This increase was achieved as part of INDECOPI’s resolution to reduce registration time for trademarks from 6 months to less than 4 months.

One of the measures taken by the INDECOPI (covering both trademarks and patents) was the online publication of the applications. The online publication not only reduced time of registration proceedings but has also helped reduce the costs associated to such proceeding. Before online publication, applicants had to pay an additional fee (between 40 to 150 euros, depending on the size of the publication).

Early 2017, rules regarding Industrial property proceedings were modified. Some of these modifications, aiming to reduce processing times are the following:

– Adoption of measures to reduce the workload of Administrative Courts. Mainly through a better allocation of competence regarding grounds of appeal. The Administrative Court will hear of appeals of opposition, revocation, nullity actions and infringement actions. Directorates and Commissions will hear about appeals regarding denial of registration when no opposition has been filled.

– To avoid further delays during a proceeding, there is now a prohibition to file additional documents or briefs when a proceeding is ready to be resolved. Unless it provides an out-of-court settlement satisfactory to the parties (for example, coexistence agreement or an agreed suspension of proceedings).

Regarding infringement actions, henceforth the Administrative Court will not be able to increase a fine imposed on the defendant unless the plaintiff had appealed the amount of the fine. This practice, which arose in the courts, has now been included in the Peruvian Trademark Law.

Finally, the Peruvian Trademark Office uploaded its database to the TMview instrument allowing interested parties in filling application in Peru to have access to this registry. Not only it simplifies the procedures but it also allows to reduce the costs.

Two decisions issued last year by the Andean Community are also worth mentioning.

First, the Andean Court of Justice clarified the difference between a well-known trademark and a renowned trademark. The importance of the decision is due to the fact that Decision 486 does not regulate the renowned trademarks and its rules are limited to the well-known trademarks.

According to this Decision, there is no need to prove the “renowned” character of the trademark in order to be recognized as such. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, the specification made by the Andean Court of Justice consist on a quotation as a footnote, hence, it is very likely that the National Courts continue to require proof of the alleged well-known character of the trademarks. We will have to wait for a modification of the Andean Trademark Law which is expected for a near future.

Second and finally, regarding revocation proceedings (also known as cancellations for non-use) when complying with the required proof of use, the following should be taken into account:

–       Revocation proceedings are not intended to punish trademark owners who advertise and make their products available to the public if the number of sales is not as elevated as expected. Therefore, the analysis should not be limited to accountable documentation but also take into account advertisement and presence in the media or the market.

–       Sales should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis in order to determine whether or not the pause of sales is justified or not.

–       Given the above, if the owner of the trademark can prove the use of the trademark at any moment within the relevant period, revocation must be dismissed.

The repercussion of the latest decision is due to the reticence from the Trademark Authority to consider proven the use of a trademark, if the documents filed were not able to demonstrate an elevated quantity of sales or if the sales were sporadic.

In conclusion, 2017 was important for the Peruvian Trademark Office in terms of innovation and for the Andean Community in terms of a new vision on how to apply the different concepts of the Decision 486. We can expect the impact of these measures to be felt as of 2018 and, given the improvements implemented in 2017, further legislative developments can be expected for 2018.

Brazil new regulation proposal and measures for reducing patent backlog

IDS
Instituto Dannemann Siemsen de Estudos Jurídicos e Técnicos

This article has been written by Natália Barzilai and Gisela de Lamare de Paiva Coelho

As a result of the massive backlog of two hundred and forty-four thousand patents applications as of May, 2017, the Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (BPTO) has been studying multiple measures to continually reduce the already famous tardiness of its examinations. The BPTO has come up with some controversial ideas.

Successfully, the BPTO has created categories in order to speed up its process, the first one being the “Green Patents”, reducing by 90% the processing time regarding the analysis of environment related innovations. After such a positive outcome, in June, 22, the BPTO extended this project to innovations from the Science and Technology Institutions (STI). Although it is still a temporary strategy limited to a certain number of “STI Patent” applications, the BPTO seeks to reduce from the average time from 10,8 years to 10 months as it is already the case with “Green Patents”.

Another conservative approach to reduce the backlog created by the reduce number of technical examiners, is to join forces with ANVISA (Brazilian Health Agency). As required by the Brazilian IP Law, the BPTO must send all pharmaceutical patents to the Health Agency to be analyzed and check out if there is no forbidden substance in it. Only after obtaining prior approval the BPTO’s technical exam can start. Having such a relevant role in the process of the analysis, the BPTO has proposed ANVISA to send its examiners to the BPTO facilities. Such small measure can help optimize the proceedings not only because the BPTO has an automatic system but because it also prevents losing time between Agencies’ transfers. In addition, the BPTO and ANVISA have established two guidelines in 2017 to fasten ANVISA’s analysis. Now granting of prior approval is based only on the presence of forbidden substance – not on the patentability of the innovation as it used to be. These guidelines not only shorten the analysis period but also provide more legal security as the Health Agency is obliged to grant the approval based only in public health requirement.

Besides those measures, facing the original source of the backlog, the BPTO is studying the possibility of implementing the successful method applied by the Japan Patent Office (JPO). As presented by Takuya Yasui in December, 2017, Japan successfully tackled its backlog by adopting two measures. First, by sub-contracting all preliminary activities, such as research before technical decisions. Today JPO has 10 companies providing its research and, even though they are private companies, supervisors are often retired JPO’s examiners. Second, hiring temporary examiners for 5-year periods which can be renewed for 5 more. With such changes, the time until the exam was reduced from 2,4 years in 2008 to 10,4 months in 2014.

Regarding the most controversial proposals, the BPTO has issued Resolution nº 193 seeking to expedite the examination of Brazilian patent applications under the PCT. In this Resolution, the BPTO has regulated that it will not perform a search of its own and will only incorporate the search already performed by an “office of reference”, meaning, International Searching Authorities (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authorities (IPEA).

The BPTO also started a public consultation for a proposal establishing that patent applications filed or with the national phase initiated up to the date of publication of the future regulation, will be granted 90 days, following a notice of admissibility, to decide whether they want to opt or not for a simplified patent application procedure, provided that they meet certain requirements and are not the subject of third-party observations (also called pre-grant oppositions). Patent applications for pharmaceutical products and processes are, in principle, excluded from this simplified procedure, potentially for political reasons and because of the scrutiny of ANVISA regarding these patents.

As reported in a previous publication at Dannemann Siemsen News[1], according to the proposed simplified procedure, the patent applications to which it applies will be automatically allowed without substantive examination, provided that a few requirements are met:

  1. Certificates of addition, divisional applications and, as above-mentioned applications covering pharmaceutical products and processes are not eligible;
  2. The filing of the patent application or request for entry into the national phase (in the case of PCT applications) should have occurred before the publication date of the proposed regulation;
  3. The application has been published or the early publication requested up to thirty days from the date of publication of the future regulation;
  4. Examination of the patent application should have been requested within 30 days following the publication date of the future regulation;
  5. Annuities payments must be in order; and
  6. No official actions regarding patentability have been published.

Our general advice would be to remove patent applications related to important inventions from the simplified procedure due to the following reasons: (i) the future patents are more likely to face validity challenges; (ii) BPTO’s delay would be compensated somehow since our IP Law currently guarantees a minimum of 10-year patent term from granting date; and (iii) it is possible to put an application to a fast-track examination in case of unauthorized exploitation or through a writ of mandamus.

In particular applicants having a large number of pending patent applications in Brazil should begin to chart a strategy in relation to their portfolio in view of possible new regulations. Meanwhile, we are hoping for the best.


[1] Ahlert, I. B., Murari Calazans, S. “Brazilian Government considers adopting simplified procedure for granting patents without substantive examination”, 1st december 2017, http://www.dannemann.com.br/dsbim/Biblioteca_Detalhe.aspx?&ID=1094&pp=1&pi=1