Marcas no convencionales: Unión Europea vs América Latina

Eli Salis
Partner at DISAIN IP

Aquellos que nos dedicamos a la propiedad intelectual tenemos la fecha del 1 de octubre señalada en rojo en nuestros calendarios desde que se aprobara el nuevo Reglamento (UE) Nº 2015/2424 que modifica reglamentos anteriores sobre la marca comunitaria, ya que será el momento en el que entren en vigor las últimas novedades del mismo, introduciendo importantes cambios en cuanto a la representación de las marcas europeas se refiere, con la finalidad de modernizar el sistema de marcas dentro de la Unión Europea, haciéndolo más accesible, eficiente y coherente en su conjunto.

Como ya es sabido por todos, el nuevo Reglamento hace desaparecer el requisito de la representación gráfica para los signos que se pretendan registrar, sustituyéndolo por los criterios adoptados oportunamente por el TJUE en el caso Sieckmann, según los cuales será suficiente con que la marca pueda reproducirse en el registro de manera “clara, precisa, completa en sí misma, fácilmente accesible, inteligible, duradera y objetiva”, por medio de cualquier tecnología generalmente disponible.

De este modo se abriría a priori la puerta al registro de marcas no convencionales que, hasta el momento, veían privado su acceso registral al no poder superar el obstáculo de la representación gráfica. Sin embargo, debemos tener presente que, a partir de ahora, determinadas marcas no convencionales podrán representarse mediante el uso de medios electrónicos de reproducción. Tal es el caso, por ejemplo, de las marcas sonoras, de movimiento, de posición, hologramas o multimedia.

Sin embargo, si bien es cierto que se presagia un nuevo futuro para determinadas marcas no convencionales, otras, como las olfativas, táctiles o gustativas, seguirán encontrando dificultades, ya que no existe actualmente tecnología disponible que permita su representación de forma precisa, inteligible y, sobre todo, duradera y objetiva.

Además de la falta de medios técnicos, otro obstáculo de nuevo cuño introducido por la propia reforma del Reglamento (y de la Directiva) es la inclusión de la muletilla “y otras características” a la prohibición absoluta recogida en el artículo 7.1 (e), que originalmente se refería en exclusiva a la forma del producto y ahora se extiende a otros tipos de marcas, en un intento por contrarrestar el efecto flexibilizador de la supresión del requisito de la representación gráfica. Tendremos que estar a la práctica de la EUIPO y de los Tribunales para ver cómo se interpreta esta nueva disposición.

Por otra parte, si bien estos estándares se van a aplicar de manera uniforme dentro de la UE, en el ámbito extracomunitario -y más concretamente en Latinoamérica- los requisitos para el registro de marcas varían de un país a otro, por lo que estas marcas pueden encontrar nuevos obstáculos al tratar de ampliar la protección a nivel internacional.

De este modo, encontramos que en casi la totalidad de países latinoamericanos (con algunas excepciones) sigue vigente el requisito de la representación gráfica (o de un signo visualmente perceptible), aunque gran parte de ellos plantean una definición amplia del concepto de marca, posibilitando la entrada, si bien de forma progresiva, a las marcas no tradicionales.

Así, en Argentina es posible registrar marcas sonoras desde hace varios años, existiendo incluso alguna decisión favorable de los Tribunales sobre la registrabilidad de marcas olfativas. También en Uruguay se permite el registro de marcas sonoras. En la Comunidad Andina, como en Chile, algunos de estos tipos de marcas están expresamente enumerados en sus correspondientes disposiciones legales como signos que constituyen una marca. Así encontramos que, por ejemplo, en Colombia se han registrado más de 850 marcas no convencionales, entre las que se encuentran marcas tridimensionales, de color, de posición, sonoras e incluso gestuales y táctiles aunque no se ha concedido ninguna marca de olor. En otros países, sin embargo, como es el caso de Brasil o México, las marcas no tradicionales todavía tienen un largo camino por recorrer.

Por tanto, y retomando la práctica europea, habrá que esperar a ver cómo se interpretan estas nuevas modificaciones y, sobre todo, la restricción comprendida en el nuevo artículo 7.1 (e) antes de augurar un futuro prometedor a las marcas no convencionales en Europa que realmente suponga un avance considerable con respecto a las legislaciones de otros países de nuestro entorno.

Este artículo ha sido elaborado en colaboración con Gracia Tordesillas.

Freedom of speech through the Internet in Mexico

Sergio Rangel
Intellectual Property Expert at Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk

 

Background

On June 2017, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice (@SCJN) analyzed an Amparo suit filed by Alestra, S. de R.L. de C.V., a well known Mexican internet service provider (ISP), filed against the §199 Bis. Industrial Property Law preliminary injunction granted by the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, also known as IMPI. The preliminary injunction rationale was the alleged infringements by storing and disseminating copyrighted music works, via a webpage.

In order to stop the allegedly infringing activities of said webpage, IMPI ordered Alestra and other ISPs to block the IP address in Mexican territory.

Alestra challenged IMPI’s preliminary injunction, in lower federal courts via an Amparo suit (Constitutional appeal) and lastly the case reached the highest Court in the country.

Supreme Court Justice Alberto Pérez-Dayán, member of its Second Chamber, drafted the opinion which resulted in two precedents. [1] [2] Per the opinion, blocking a webpage may violate the freedom of speech (recognized human right in the Mexican Constitution as well as in international treaties). It is mandatory for any Mexican government agency to take into account the freedom of speech as part of the limits to impose preliminary measures. Likewise, the injunctions shall be deemed in the law, grounded in a legitimate purpose, as well as necessary and proportional.

Because freedom of speech shall be a major concern to the Mexican State, any limitation cannot be unreasonably wide or generic. So a general block may be suitable only when exceptional circumstances raise, including inducement to terrorism, hate, racism, discrimination, genocide, violence, child pornography, etc.

Likewise, the threat of potential distribution of illegal copyrighted material is not per se a valid argument to entirely block a webpage since this blocking may include legal contents and protected speech, resulting in censorship.

Concerned of the application of the aforementioned precedents, the Mexican Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (@AMPPI_AC) organized on September 1st, 2017, the conference: “#LibertadDeExpresión. Supreme Court criterion related to blocking of webpages and its interaction with the Intellectual Property”.

Justice Alberto Pérez-Dayán was the speaker on behalf of the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice.

In my opinión:

In the last months, Intellectual Property Rights owners and colleagues have been shocked due to the opinion of the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, regarding the blocking of webpages. Apparently, the opinion blocks most of the online enforcement administrative actions. I disagree.

Seems clear that the Court is not restricting the authority of IMPI to grant preliminary injunctions against webpages, but establish rules.

Because the generic block is an extraordinary measure, it demands also extraordinary work to justify it.

Blocking webpages is constitutional when the authority properly rationale that the measure is adequate to prevent violations to intellectual property rights.

The blocking of a webpage must be reasonable and proportional. As Justice Pérez-Dayán said; a block may be applicable when the transit through the webpage is impossible without run into illegal contents.

Therefore, the matter is not to face a technical matter v. Human Rights, or to confront Freedom of Speech v. Copyrights. The matter is to prevent a government agency to misuse authority that may result in a disproportional   enforcement action or censorship… is to work hand-in-hand with IMPI to obtain rational injunctions that may result in a partial or even in total block of alleged-illegal contents.

Total block of webpages may be constitutional, but depends in how the block is carried out.

[1] BLOQUEO DE UNA PÁGINA ELECTRÓNICA (INTERNET). DICHA MEDIDA ÚNICAMENTE ESTÁ AUTORIZADA EN CASOS EXCEPCIONALES.

[2] LIBERTAD DE EXPRESIÓN EJERCIDA A TRAVÉS DE LA RED ELECTRÓNICA (INTERNET). LA PROTECCIÓN DE LOS DERECHOS DE AUTOR NO JUSTIFICA, EN SÍ Y POR SÍ MISMA, EL BLOQUEO DE UNA PÁGINA WEB.

Overview of the LATAM IP systems from the Special 301 Report perspective

Rebeca Nieto
IP Expert at Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk

Every April since 1989, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) publishes the Special 301 Report. This report evaluates the level of adequacy and effectiveness provided by U.S. trading partners’ countries on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) protection and enforcement.

Although the Special 301 Subcommittee received IP data and information from more than 100 trading partners, this current edition is focused on 34 countries, which have been placed either on the Priority Watch List or Watch List.

Eleven countries are on the Priority Watch List: Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela. Under this category fall those countries that do not provide an adequate level of IPR protection, enforcement o market access, according to the USTR standards.

Twenty-three countries are on the lower-level Watch List: Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Jamaica, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

As regards Latin America, the Report highlighted the efforts and positive actions taken by these countries to face the existing IP challenges. Let’s see briefly some of them:

  • Mexico and Costa Rica are committed to use licensed software in their government agencies.
  • Brazil, Argentina, Dominican Republic are reducing their patent and trademark application backlogs by hiring new examiners, digitalizing internal procedures and increasing the efficiency of their online applications management systems.
  • Brazil has made significant progress in combating online piracy.
  • Ecuador, besides updating its IP system with the Ingenuity Code, had lowered its patent fees.
  • Costa Rica has improved its inter-agencies IP coordination mechanisms and increased IP criminal prosecutions.
  • Many countries are also enhancing their IP regimes by enacting new provisions -it is the case of Mexico, who has recently introduced a sui generis opposition procedure for trademark applications- or by entering into Patent Prosecution Highway (PHH) agreements -as for example the Pacific Alliance (Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) and PROSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay), in order to accelerate patent proceedings-.

On the other hand, the Report also detected a wide range of concerns that, according to the Office of USTR, may restrain innovation, competitiveness and investment on those countries. Some IP issues that remain unsolved or that have not been properly addressed are, among others, the following ones:

  • The fight against online piracy remains insufficient in many countries like Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia.
  • Piracy and counterfeiting are particularly widespread throughout Venezuela, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil or Colombia.
  • Illicit camcording, to be considered as a major way to obtain unauthorised copies of new movies, is spreading on Mexico and Peru.
  • Enforcement against suspected infringing goods at the border must be improved in many countries of this region. In this respect, different enforcement mechanisms are deemed essential, such as the creation of a formal customs recordal system in Costa Rica, enhance border control in Peru or authorization to Mexican customs agents for taking ex officio actions for goods in-transit.

The IP concerns and issues raised in this Report are dealt by the U.S. through bilateral dialogue or enforcement tools, including the WTO dispute settlement procedures.

Finally, it must be appointed that over the last years, the annual classification of countries made by this Report has remained almost unchanged in relation with Latin American countries. In this sense, the last alteration was 2015, when Ecuador switched from the Watch List to the Priority Watch List, place which occupied only once during the last decade.

However, and considering the continuous efforts and positive steps given in many Latin American IP systems, significant changes are expected on this list in the near future.

Novedades de PI en Perú

Laisha Mubarak
Lawyer at Philippi, Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría

El 29 de mayo de 2017 se ha aprobado a través del Decreto Supremo N° 059-2017-PCM el Reglamento del Decreto Legislativo Nº 1075 (en adelante, el “Reglamento”). El Decreto Legislativo N° 1075 aprueba disposiciones complementarias a la Decisión 486 de la Comunidad Andina que establece el Régimen Común sobre Propiedad Industrial y sus modificaciones. Para estos efectos, el mencionado Decreto Legislativo se le denominará como la “Ley”.

El Decreto Supremo ha sido emitido según lo ordenado en la segunda disposición complementaria final del Decreto Legislativo N° 1309, Decreto Legislativo de simplificación de los procedimientos administrativos en materia de Propiedad Intelectual seguido ante los órganos resolutivos del Instituto Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia y de la Protección de la Propiedad Intelectual-INDECOPI.

Entre los principales alcances del Reglamento se encuentran los siguientes:

Régimen de Poderes:

En caso el representante se acredite como tal mediante un poder que obra en la Superintendencia Nacional de Registros Públicos – SUNARP- y desee emplearlo, debe indicar de manera expresa en su solicitud el número de partida registral en el que dicho poder se encuentra inscrito.

Fecha de solicitud de registro:

En caso la solicitud de registro de marca no cumpla con los requisitos exigidos por la Ley, la Unidad de Trámite Documentario requerirá al solicitante dicha información y otorgará un plazo de sesenta (60) días hábiles para que complete la información, sin asignarle número de expediente ni fecha de presentación. La Unidad de Trámite Documentario mantendrá en su custodia la solicitud hasta que el administrado subsane los requisitos. Caso contrario, se devolverá al solicitante los documentos que hubiese presentado.

En caso la Unidad de Trámite Documentario no detecte la omisión de alguno de los requisitos exigidos por Ley, la instancia respectiva observará la solicitud y otorgará un plazo para subsanar.

Notificación a depósitos temporales autorizados por SUNAT:

Las medidas cautelares dictadas en procedimientos relacionados con la presunta infracción a derechos de propiedad industrial cuya mercancía se encuentre almacenada en depósitos temporales autorizados por la SUNAT, son notificadas a los correos electrónicos proporcionados por los referidos depósitos, precisándose el tipo de medida cautelar a cumplir y la identificación de la mercancía sobre la cual recae la misma.

Diligencia de inspección:

Las solicitudes de diligencia de inspección deben cumplir con los siguientes requisitos: a) encontrarse debidamente sustentada; b) acreditarse el pago; c) indicar el lugar donde se llevará a cabo la diligencia; d) nombres y apellidos completos, denominación social o razón social, documento nacional de identidad, carné de extranjería o cualquier documento análogo del solicitante, domicilio procesal, y de ser el caso los datos de identificación de quien ejerza la representación de éste; e) registro Único de Contribuyentes, en el caso que corresponda; f) firma o huella digital, en caso de no saber firmar o estar impedido; g) identificación del certificado de registro que ampare el derecho del accionante. En el caso de acciones sustentadas en un nombre comercial, registrado o no, debe presentar los documentos que acrediten el uso actual, real y efectivo del mismo, con anterioridad al momento de interposición de la solicitud. En caso de acciones sustentadas en signos distintivos notoriamente conocidos deberá acreditarse tal condición; h) copia del escrito y sus recaudos, según la cantidad de notificaciones a realizarse. En caso de presentarse pruebas que consistan en muestras físicas, deberán adjuntarse ejemplares adicionales o, en su defecto, una representación de la misma.

 Asimismo, se deberá cumplir con el procedimiento detallado en el artículo 118° de la Ley.

De no cumplir con los requisitos antes señalados, se notificará al solicitante para que subsane la omisión en el plazo de dos (02) días hábiles, bajo apercibimiento de tenerse por no presentada la solicitud.

Procedimiento Sancionador:

La autoridad nacional competente en materia de propiedad industrial puede promover los siguientes procedimientos sancionadores: a) procedimientos iniciados por proporcionar a la autoridad nacional información falsa u oculte, destruya o altere información, entre otros supuestos del artículo 116 de la Ley, b) supuestos contemplados en el artículo 7 del Decreto Legislativo Nº 807, c) supuestos contemplados en el artículo 55 de la Ley, d) procedimientos iniciados por el uso ilegal de la denominación “marca registrada”, “M.R.”, “denominación de origen, “D.O.” u otra equivalente que indiquen falsamente la existencia de un derecho de propiedad intelectual, e) procedimientos iniciados por incumplimientos de resoluciones y medidas cautelares y f) denuncias iniciadas de oficio.

Presentación de escritos ante la Sala Especializada en Propiedad Intelectual:

Las partes tienen el derecho de presentar los escritos y documentos que consideren pertinentes hasta antes de que el expediente pase a etapa de ser resuelto. El Acta levantada por la Secretaría Técnica en la que se deje constancia de que el expediente pasa a etapa de ser resuelto surtirá efectos a partir del sexto día hábil de notificada. Los escritos presentados con anterioridad a dicha fecha serán evaluados por la autoridad, salvo que sean escritos reiterando los argumentos de hecho o de derecho que hayan sido expuestos anteriormente.

Quedan exceptuados de lo dispuesto en el párrafo anterior aquellos escritos que contengan desistimientos, conciliaciones o transacciones extrajudiciales.

Renuncia a la presentación:

Durante cualquiera de las etapas del procedimiento, los representantes de las partes pueden renunciar a dicha representación debiendo cumplir para tal efecto con lo establecido en el Código Civil. La variación del representante no afecta la vigencia del último domicilio procedimental fijado en el expediente, en tanto no sea variado expresamente.

Presentación de solicitudes a la Sala Especializada en Propiedad Intelectual:

Toda solicitud de exhibición de documentos, de diligencia de inspección o que las partes presenten debe ser debidamente sustentada, caso contrario será denegada de pleno derecho.

Plazos para citar a las partes:

La fecha de cualquier tipo de audiencia debe ser notificada a las partes con un mínimo de cinco (05) días hábiles y puede ser reprogramada por solicitud de parte mediante una solicitud justificada con al menos tres (03) días hábiles previos a su realización.

Desistimiento:

Se puede desistir del procedimiento o de alguna pretensión antes de que la resolución final de la segunda instancia administrativa sea notificada. Esto genera que las resoluciones que se hayan emitido durante el procedimiento queden sin efecto.

Contenido de la Resolución:

La Autoridad tiene la facultad de declarar la nulidad de la resolución impugnada en caso de encontrarse incursa en alguna causalidad de nulidad, sin ser necesario que ella haya sido invocada por las partes. 

Domicilio procedimental:

El domicilio procedimental fijado por las partes se presume vigente, sin admitir prueba en contrario, en tanto no se comunique su cambio por escrito. Si quien recibe la notificación presenta un escrito devolviendo la notificación, éste se tendrá por no presentado.

Recurso de Reconsideración:

El recurso de reconsideración que, además de la nueva prueba, tenga como sustento cuestiones de puro derecho o distinta interpretación de las pruebas presentadas, será calificado como un recurso de apelación.

· Aplicación de la ley: Las reglas de competencia establecidas en el artículo 4 de la Ley, modificado por el Decreto Legislativo N° 1309, son aplicables a los recursos de apelación que se hayan interpuesto luego de la entrada en vigencia del Decreto Legislativo N° 1309 (31 de diciembre de 2016). Así, la Dirección de Signos Distintivos, a través de su Comisión, conocerá y resolverá en segunda y última instancia los recursos de apelación recaídos en procedimientos no contenciosos (registro, renovación, modificación, entre otros).

La Sala Especializada en Propiedad Intelectual del Tribunal del INDECOPI sólo conocerá y resolverá en segunda y última instancia los recursos de apelación que versen sobre procedimientos contenciosos.

· Aplicación de las Reglas Procedimentales: Lo dispuesto en el título de reglas procedimentales es aplicable, en lo que corresponda, a los procedimientos seguidos ante las Direcciones de Propiedad Industrial y las Comisiones que las integran.

· Vigencia: El Reglamento se encontrará vigente desde el día siguiente de su publicación.

La iniciativa del poder ejecutivo, gratamente seguida por el Indecopi, implica grandes avances y mejoras para el usuario, toda vez que se simplifican procedimientos y se racionalizan los requisitos que éstos deben presentar. Sin perjuicio de ello, me gustaría recalcar que, respecto a la modificación referida a la fecha de solicitud de registro, al no asignársele un número de presentación cuando exista una observación, deja abierto a interpretación en qué fecha se entenderá presentada la solicitud, ya que no se señala expresamente. En ese sentido, si la fecha de presentación será la de la subsanación, habría que tener mucho cuidado con solicitudes que ingresen con posterioridad a la solicitud observada y aún no subsanada; ya que la fecha de presentación podría ser anterior y la nueva solicitud gozaría de prioridad.

Time: a competitiveness factor on patented innovation

Vicente Zafrilla Diaz-Marta
Intellectual Property expert at the Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk

Why should some Latin American IPOs improve their patent granting procedure?

According to OECD´s Oslo Manual innovation is defined as “the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations”.

Therefore a country´s ability to innovate does not exclusively rely on how much research is developed in a country but on how much of this research reaches the market, directly or indirectly.

Despite a certain degree of debate concerning patents as boosters of innovation, it is true that there is a relevant percentage of innovation that reaches the market by means of patents.

Delays in registration are traditionally perceived as barriers for the entrance of foreign innovators and companies. However, this is only a partial view, since such deficiencies also entail a negative impact on their national innovation and entrepreneurship environment.

Effect on the Industrial Application analysis: the priority period

Since Paris Convention patent applicants in any of the member countries of the convention, enjoy a 12-month priority period to file their patent in any other member countries, while keeping its first application date as the priority date.

In terms of market entrance, 12 months is a very short period of time to assess whether the market accepts a product or not, especially if it is an innovative one. Therefore, only those companies that are very sure of the success of the product and/or have the means to predict such a success will invest their resources in seeking patent protection.

In such a scenario, only few SMEs and inventors would decide to invest their time and money to protect their inventions abroad and/or, once decided, would limit the number of international filings.

Fortunately, the Patent Cooperation Treaty extends the priority period. Once the PCT filing fee has been paid (around €1200) applicants can decide in which countries they want to protect their patent within approximately 30 months (depending on the country). Under this timeframe, even SMEs can assess if they want to enter certain countries.

Therefore, Latin American countries that are not members of the PCT (Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) are not only discouraging foreign IP applicants to protect their inventions, but also limiting the access of their own nationals’ patents to international protection.

This barrier has a stronger deterrent effect for foreign SMEs and inventors rather than big companies, which file their applications regardless of there being a PCT or not.

Effect on Application: Search and Examination Report

All those IP offices that are able to provide the Search and Examination Report within a short period of time are giving their applicants a competitive advantage.

If the IP office is able to issue the Preliminary Search Report and/or the Examination Report in a short timeframe, the IP applicants will be able to save money by:

  • Withdrawing the application and/or not filing the PCT if the patent is not new or inventive or;
  • Limiting or erasing claims that lack novelty or inventiveness to prevent facing delays related to other IPOs’ objections.

Thus, Latin American IPR Offices that cannot issue the PSR and/or the ER in twelve months from the priority/filing date are forcing their nationals to face the International Phase of the PCT or the filing in third countries without information concerning the strength of their patents or at least an overview of the expectations of succeeding in the granting of the patent; this is a scenario that may lead to losing all the amounts invested in the application, translations and any other administrative costs.

In recent years some Latin American IP Offices seemed to notice this negative impact and have started to take measures to improve their performance at internal level; by improving their internal practices, and thanks to international cooperation both at interregional level (e.g. the PPH agreements signed with EPO, Spanish IP Office and USPTO) and at intraregional level, with tools like the Prosur PPH or CADOPAT. 

Effect on Exploitation and Enforcement: Granting

Delays in granting the patent also have direct consequences in the use and defence of the patent. Despite the “standard” 20-year term of a patent, a patent’s lifecycle in certain sectors, such as smartphones, tends to be shorter. In some cases, a patent granted five or six years from the filing date have no or very reduced economic interest.

In addition, and generally speaking, pending patent right holders benefit from very little or any rights concerning enforcement until the patent is granted. Such a circumstance prevents them from bringing actions against infringers, which does not only harm their interests, but also their licensees’, including local companies.

Furthermore, long granting periods also harm competitors. A pending patent operates as a “warning” advice for competitors, who are very likely to avoid incurring in acts that may be prohibited by the patent owner once the patent is granted. Hence, a patent office that incurs in delays in rejecting a null patent creates uncertainty to its nationals about whether or not they are able to use the invention.

For instance, in the case were the same patent is rejected by National IP Offices, if country A rejected it in year 2 from filing date and country B rejected it in year 5, country A competitors would enjoy three additional years when they can freely use and exploit the invention in the country, whereas country B competitors will be subject to uncertainty until the patent is rejected.

To conclude, time is a key factor for the patent system. Although inefficiencies in patent registration procedures may harm foreign companies and innovators’ interests, the harm caused to its own national innovation system is even worse. Moreover, very long and formal procedures lead to a negative perception over the patent system in general, and discourage national innovators from protecting their inventions both nationally and abroad, which directly affects the country´s ability to compete in a knowledge-based economy.

Intellectual Property for SMEs: 6 common errors

Having their own business is a yearning for many employees tired of a working life that does not fill anything else than their bank account. They endure frustrations and abuses for a not always decent salary, and feed their dream with the massive DIY-tools that the Internet provides.

More than a few are eventually convinced by the siren calls of tempting opportunities offered by the digital world to exploit an idea in a profitable way with no (or less) tangible means and leap into the void without a second thought.

In order to prevent your savings, hair and other valuable resources to be wiped out by a temporary insanity, we are listing some of the most common Intellectual Property (IP) – related mistakes Start-Ups make too often and that you must avoid if you want to succeed.

1. Poor knowledge of the sector

Working at Disneyland is not the same as visiting it. Likewise, being a (more or less specialized) consumer does not give you a complete picture of the sector. It’s key to know the internal mechanisms.

Given that experience is the best teacher, during the initial stages you’d overcome this deficiency with a deeper prior analysis and better planning.

However, many start-ups embrace adventure without being aware of the frequency or speed of technological developments in the sector, where to find new opportunities for growth or licensed-technology, or what patents are relevant to their products.

In other words, they do not know what Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are needed to operate and its availability.

In regard to the first, sectorial guides (i.e. Machinery and IP in Mercosur and Chile) may help you to identify the relevant IPR to your case and understand why and when should them be protected (i.e. a graphic designer would need to know more about copyrights and trademarks, and pay less or no attention to patents).

In regard to the second, “Out of sight, out of mind” is not a good IP policy, since not knowing the law does not allow you not to obey it. Other’s IPR infringement may take place though you did not want to. You’d better check the trademarks, patents or copyrights owned by your competitors to avoid it.

Thanks to that, you’d not only escape a costly legal proceeding, but you’d have a deeper knowledge on how innovative you are and be able to adapt your commercial strategy.

Performing a prior search is hence indispensable. Unfortunately, you cannot always access comprehensive, reliable, free-of-charge databases that can be easily handled by the average user.

The solution calls for expert advice.

2. Fail to identify IPR and deficient valuation

The idea that inspires a different business’ birth tends to be unique to the father’s eyes.

Nonetheless, just a few know exactly what part can be protected (i.e. technical feature, aesthetical aspect, name, information itself, etc.) and how is it given material form. No, the answer is not always “patent”.

You can also find utility models, designs, trademarks, trade secrets or copyrights, among others. Generally speaking, commercialization of a new product involves many IPR simultaneously. For example, the technology used by Goretex (registered trademark) was patented and the shoes appearing on the catalogues and brochures (protected by copyright) have been previously registered as designs.

Though, if you think that IP is only for technology-based or big companies, you are wrong. Any company has some potential (or current) IPR.

In fact, all companies daily work with intangibles that could be protected as IPR –and, thus, be exploited-, but have no clue about it.

Your company or product name can be registered as a trademark and reach an incredible value. If you don’t believe me, you’d better check Forbes’ rank of the 10 most valuable trademarks.

If you are not aware of what you have in your hands, you can hardly assess its value properly and protect it accordingly. This error can cost you dear if we bear in mind that for most Start-Ups, IPR often represent the most important asset of the company.

3. Bad timing

Sadly, IP protection is way too common done as an after-thought or be left for a later stage.

Thus, many entrepreneurs figure out that the innovative product on which the business project is based cannot be patented anymore, either because:

  • Since they began to develop it until they finally were ready to launch it, it has been too long and in the meantime other company applied for similar patents (first-to-file wins, remember?); or
  • They disclosed it (via online or at a trade fair) and it is not new anymore. Many Latin-American countries do provide a grace period for patents, but you need to know which and its requirements.

Those of them who’d rather release the product and protect it depending on its success can be committing IP offenses unknowingly. At best, the product was really innovative and they could face any of the mentioned scenarios.

The same situation may be seen as respect to the trademark. Before naming your company or product, be sure that it is available in your countries of interest (think internationally!). Otherwise, you’d have to choose a new name or be forced to negotiate with the right holder (i.e. the “iphone” trademark dispute between Gradiente and Apple that took place in Brazil was a good example).

Usually, the first to apply for its registration gets the exclusive right (first-to-file principle). But some Latin-American countries have a different regulation. Hence, it is recommended to be assisted by specialized professionals from the beginning and have a case-by-case approach.

On the other hand, there are some opportunities that apparently cannot be missed. However, a trade fair or a meeting with a promising client can be a double-edge sword. You’d better calm down and perform a good search and design -supported by an IP expert preferably- involving all the relevant parts (e.g. designers and marketing team).

4. Ownership: absence of clarity and awareness

Creative processes tend to be convulsed and it’s hard to distinguish who created what and in which proportion (particularly, when ideas arise from brain storming or daily work).

Moreover, when you deal with external providers or a team, many of them do not know who is the real owner of the work. The assignment rules are usually contained in the IP regulation and the employment or project contract. This is why you must pay attention to its content and try to clarify rights and obligations of each part and adapt them to your needs before your start working.

In this regard, many disputes arise when the employee thinks that everything he/she creates belongs to him/her (while it tends to be the other way around).

For this purpose, a well-drafted contract is crucial. Be as much specific as possible and try to think on the most -and less, but harmful- likely scenarios and include a clause for that.

Start-Ups rarely avoid application of knowledge gained from the company they previously worked for or achieved the final result without using its means (although it was during their leisure time).

This is of central importance when you are looking for funding or partnership (ascertaining the correct IPR assignment is one of the key points of any due diligence conducted by investors to give the green light) or when license agreements are signed.

At internal level, it is equally important that the rest of the company members know the scope of the IPR they work with (i.e. what countries are covered, can it be modified for an online campaign, is there a limit to the number of licenses, what happens with any improvement on it). For-profit use of open source technology or under for personal use only license; inclusion of copyright-protected works without permission in catalogues or social networks; or utilization of patented technology without realizing it, are some of the most common errors and can be prevented with an active IP awareness policy by trainings like those provided by the Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk.

5. Lack of (or improvised) protection strategy

The absence of a clear short/medium term IP strategy is a serious handicap to the business project’s success –or event survival-. It’s impossible to identify the needed tools to achieve the objectives if they are not well defined.

Moreover, many entrepreneurs underestimate the importance of own and other’s IPR or overrate the power of a registered IPR (patents to not enforce themselves automatically: you have to negotiate with infringers or start legal actions). Additionally, some businessmen forget that IPR also entail certain obligations (i.e. trademarks’ obligation use was set to avoid defensive registrations in many Latin-American countries).

As a result, they find themselves:

  • with weak IPR to save money in legal assistance
  • with IPR that they don’t use; or
  • forced to request lawyer’s support to solve a non-registration related problem

Notwithstanding, the vast majority of the mentioned mistakes so far can be prevented with correct planning.

Or, to put in other way, you have to invest in IP and avoid relying upon improvisation.

Do not forget that the IP strategy must be aligned with the business strategy (and not vice versa). Short, medium and long term must be taken into account, too; and plans must be regularly updated and suited to change.

6. Who needs a lawyer?

You can find many infinite templates, examples and tutorials on how to elaborate your own agreements across the Internet. As a matter of fact, it is really tempting to take four of them and adapt them to your case –at high risk of copy-paste abuse-.

The so termed Frankenstein effect is one of the most frequent errors, given the high cost of legal assistance and low awareness of the importance of a well-drafted contract (in particular when no problem arose).

It must be however noted that IP is a very complex matter, that varies a lot from country to country, and that an in-house lawyer (if the company has one) -that already deals with tax or sales legal issues- can hardly ensure a high level of efficiency.

Although most of the entrepreneurs are used to do it all by themselves, they must know their limits, be wise and delegate to experts (when needed).

Do not forget that if you trust a lawyer from the beginning, you can save a lot of money (fixing the mess created can be two or three times more expensive).

Indeed, the Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk was created in response to all those EU SMEs that want (and must) to know more about IP and how to use it as a profitable business tool, in particular when they operate in Latin America –or are intending to do it-.

Moreover, some of the mentioned trainings (and much more) are explained in depth in the training sessions they organize (i.e. Start-Ups in Latin America: Most Common IP errors).

Nonetheless, when the problem you have is beyond your knowledge –gained thanks to the E-learning documents and trainings offered by the Helpdesk-, you could always use the Helpline. All any of its services, it is free-of-charge and totally confidential.

Furthermore, it is available in 5 different languages (English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese) and the experts provide first-line assistance within 3 working days.

For further information, you can check their website www.latinamerica-ipr-helpdesk.eu.

CIBEPYME – The platform to support SMEs in their processes of internationalization to Latin America

INPI
Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial

Created in the scope of the Ibero-American Program of Intellectual Property, the platform CIBEPYME is available to SMEs since 28th of October 2015.

This platform aims to support SMEs who intend to internationalize their products and services in the countries of Latin America.

The main objective of this platform is to enhance the use of intellectual property and to promote the effective management of intangible assets by SMEs, providing information, services and free assistance (through the inquiry form).

The CIBEPYME also allows the sharing of best practices, awareness campaigns, as well as case studies of companies that bet in the registration system, and also the dissemination of news and activities in each country.

At the moment, the information is only available to the countries belonging to the Latin American Program of Industrial Property (IBEPI http://www.ibepi.org): Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Spain, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Republic Dominican Republic and Uruguay.

The content of this website is in Spanish (in Portuguese only for Portugal and Brazil micro sites). The information will also be available in English soon.

Gold Medal for Chile

Maximiliano Santa Cruz Scantlebury
National Director of the National Institute of Industrial Property – INAPI

In 1986 the world heard the breaking news on the field of medicine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of the first recombinant vaccine, product developed to fight the Hepatitis B virus, a potentially mortal infection.

The Chilean biochemist Pablo Valenzuela Valdés was behind this historic scientific achievement. He became a referent of the genetic engineering as well as a pioneer on the technology transfer at the University of California, San Francisco.

The invention was patented and then licensed to pharmaceutical firms who were responsible for distributing the vaccine to dozens of countries. The license agreement has become the most prolific in term of economic results for the University of California, San Francisco in almost two decades, allowing funding new discoveries and further technology development.

Later the protection of industrial property on the vaccine, based on research about yeast, produced a number of tests which transformed the blood banks in a safer source.

Dr. Valenzuela´s contribution still gathers praise. On last October 22nd he became the first Chilean scientist to be awarded with the Gold Medal for Inventors, given by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The award was promoted by The National Institute of Industrial Property of Chile (INAPI), due to Valenzuela significant contribution to the creation of new knowledge and its appropriation, which has meant a truly entrepreneurship engine for development.

The award had a special meaning for the patent system, as was given at the first anniversary since INAPI began operations as International Searching and Preliminary Examining Authority (ISA/IPEA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). This new role, reserved only for 21 national agencies in the world, has meant a stimulus for Chilean universities and inventors in order to globalize their inventions and reach bigger markets.

During this year, 11 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, which are PCT members, have designated the Chilean office as the mandated office to search and conduct the preliminary examination on patents.

Thus, the Chilean agency of industrial property provides services beyond their borders as well as Chile paves the way for the proliferation of new inventors who might impact the world with their technological developments as Pablo Valenzuela did almost three decades ago. He is the undisputed winner of the WIPO Gold Medal.

From vlogger to freebooter – the difference a URL can make

Adriana Hernández Gallegos
Project Manager at Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey – ITESM

In November 2015, the number of videos that were published in Facebook pages exceeded the number of audiovisual works registered in Youtube, making Facebook the most popular platform for sharing videos. Facebook has worked hard in recent months to improve video-watching features and functions, and adjusting its algorithm to give preference to those videos that allow more interaction. Facebook has now become the giant of video-sharing in the internet.

The quantity of video posts uploaded on Facebook is impressive, but recently, many video creators are rightly complaining about the dubious origin of the videos shared on this site and the lack of copyright enforcement strategies by Facebook. And what does this have to do with you? Many of us have probably watched a video on Facebook that was uploaded without the authorization of the video creator. Actually, according to a recent report from Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, “out of the 1000 most popular Facebook videos of 2015, 725 were re-uploads by people who didn’t own the video.”

This action of downloading copyrighted content from a media hosting site and re-uploading it without the creator’s authorization is called “freebooting”, a term created by Brady Haran, during his “Hello Internet” podcast. Before the term existed the practice of re-uploading content without authorization was called “infringement”, but as Haran said, it was considered a very soft word for this practice.

Right now many people and companies continue to freeboot, impacting the economy of Youtube channels and creators. But how is this happening exactly? Remember those ads showing when you start watching a video on Youtube? Well this is part of the revenue sharing strategy from Youtube, in which the site shares a percentage of money given by companies for advertisement to the creator of the video where the ads are being shown. Believe it or not, there are people that make a living in Youtube, but they need a large number of views to make a real income from their videos. If someone posts and shares a freebooted video, the views from the freebooted video are not counted toward the number of views that are profitable to the creators. In other words, each time a freebooted video is watched, the creator of such video loses the opportunity to make a profit.

Youtube video bloggers (Vloggers) around the world have started the conversations about how this dishonest practice affects their industry, pointing in particular the lack of protection they have in some social networks and sites. Specifically, Facebook has become one of the most criticized sites by the vloggers, given that the massive number of Facebook users represents the vlogger’s main opportunity loss.

Hank Green, American entrepreneur, blogger, and vlogger, famous for his YouTube channel “Vlog Brothers”, published a blog post where he accused Facebook of cheating, lying, and downright stealing video content. Facebook responded to this accusation arguing that they are committed to help people and organizations protect their intellectual property rights, but the company has not made any substantial changes to their video management platform to prevent freebooting.

What can you do to prevent it?

If you want to promote an artist, a creator, or a vlogger; you need to provide the URL to the source material allowing users to directly access to the original media site. You can also help by reporting those videos that are being freebooted on social media and other sources. These solutions are free and take only a few clicks. It comes back to the average user to make the internet a better place.

Registering your trademark in Latin America through Madrid System

When an SME wants to register an IPR in different countries there are two alternatives, to apply for the IPR before each national office or to use one of the WIPO international registration systems, namely Madrid System (trademarks), Patent Cooperation Treaty (patents) and Hague System (Designs).

In this post we are going to explain how Madrid System can be a useful tool for EU SMEs that aim to protect their trademarks abroad, benefiting from simpler and cost-effective proceedings.

The Madrid System is not implemented in most Latin American countries. Nevertheless, this situation is expected to change in the near future, therefore EU companies that want to internationalise to Latin America may be interested in registering its trademark through Madrid System on the current members (Colombia, Cuba and Mexico) and hopefully, extend the protection to further members once them enter into the system. madrid-system

What is Madrid System?

Madrid System is the WIPO International Trademark Registration system governed by the Madrid Protocol and Agreement. It allows trademark applicants to apply for registration in various countries simultaneously with a single application.

Who can benefit from the system?

Any national or company from a Member State of the Protocol or the Agreement. All EU Member States have ratified the Protocol.

In which Latin American countries could I apply from protection through Madrid System?

Only a few Latin American countries (Colombia, Cuba and Mexico) are members of the Madrid System.

How does it work?

EU applicants can request an International Trademark Registration before their own national IP office or the EUIPO (Office of Origin). The International application must be based on a prior trademark application or registration (both EU and national trademarks are accepted).

Thereafter the Office of Origin submits the application to WIPO, that performs the formal examination, publishes it on the WIPO Gazette of International Marks, and send it to each national IP office where the applicant want to protect the trademark (Designated Party).

IMPORTANT! Each national office is entitled to perform the substantive examination according to its internal regulation and to reject or register the trademark within 12 months (Cuba) or 18 months (Colombia and Mexico). In case of third parties oppositions, the term in Colombia to reject the trademark might be extended.

Once the trademark is registered in all or some of the countries the renewal and modifications are centralised by WIPO and you can manage it as a single registration.

How much does it cost?la-logo

It strongly depends on the number of countries, the type of trademark and the number of classes for which protection is sough.

We strongly recommend you to check the useful International Application Simulator and Fee calculator offered by WIPO on its website.

What are the main advantages?

Madrid applicants may benefit from certain advantages over those that prefer to register on a country-by-country basis:

  • The trademark is applied for in a single language: English, Spanish or French, without the need of further translations.
  • Applicants benefit from a simplified application proceeding instead filing a bundle of applications before each national office.
  • Each due fee is paid in a single currency (Swiss francs) and a single payment.
  • Any modification, renewal or transfer can be done directly before WIPO with effects in all Designated Parties.
  • As a general rule, it is not mandatory to appoint and pay a representative on each Designated Party except in certain cases (e.g. the trademark is opposed)
  • Once registered, it is possible to extend the International Trademark protection to other countries by means of subsequent designations. This is very useful if the company wants to enter into new markets or if a new Latin American country in which the SME operates enters Madrid System.

Want to know more?

Contact our Helpline!