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!

Food labelling vs Trademarks in Chile: a conflict not yet settled

Diego José Acuña Domínguez
Associate lawyer at Beuchat, Barros & Pfenniger, Abogados

When two constitutional rights are at odds, it is always a difficult conflict to solve, not only for the Government authorities but also for the Courts of Justice, which are often responsible for settling the dispute.

This is precisely the current situation in Chile, which has taken the decision to go further than the rest of the countries in terms of food labelling. Chile has, indeed, decided to implement a legislation that restricts both the nutritional composition of the same, as well as the way to advertise and offer them to the consumer of the relevant market, especially in those cases where aimed at minors.

The Government is basing its decision on the need to protect public health, due to the obesity pandemic that has been afflicting Chile for a decade now and which is causing 1 in 11 deaths in Chile. In fact, according to national studies, one person dies every hour from obesity and 5 out of 10 children are overweight.

The problem is under the spotlight because of the new Health regulation. The new regulation establishes that no manufacturer can disseminate “advertising” aimed at attracting the attention of children under 14 years old regarding products whose nutritional composition includes concentrations of nutrients that exceed the established limits, and which ultimately is an indicator of high levels of sodium, saturated fats or sugars.

In turn, companies manufacturing, distributing and marketing this type of products claim that their industrial property rights regarding the trademarks used on their packaging is being restricted, without previous expropriation or compensation by virtue of such limitation.

The conflict has escalated and has eventually reached the Civil Courts of Justice. The claims were filed by the affected companies against the administrative decisions of the Ministry of Health (under which fines have already been filed against these manufacturers of foodstuffs), requesting for these fines to be waived and to be authorized to use their figurative marks on the packaging of their products.

One of the arguments put forward by these private companies refers to the fact that they are complying with the current legislation on food labelling. They have done so by incorporating the so-called “HIGH IN” warning disclaimers on the packaging of their products in compliance with the “daily food guide”.

They also point out that they have terminated their involvement in the “advertising” activity aimed at children under 14 linked to the “HIGH IN” products, calories, saturated fat, sugars or sodium. Currently, these figurative elements are only used on the packaging of the products and in retail outlets, but not in mass media such as television, newspapers or similar media.

The main argument is that the registered figurative trademarks used on their products cannot be consider as “advertising” directly targeting children under 14, since Trademarks are used to identify or distinguish their products on the market from the ones of their competitors. In other words, the main use for trademarks is to provide distinctiveness, not for advertising purposes.

According to them, the concepts of “brand” and “advertising” are not synonyms; they have a different nature. The main function of a trademark is to “distinguish” products (emanating from the very definition in the Industrial Property Act), not to “advertise” them. The main purpose of advertising is to “promote the consumption of a given product”.

There, the use of the mark on the packaging is for distinguishing purposes, not advertising (mark cannot be placed on the food product itself). It is this distinctive function that allows the consumer in the relevant national market to associate or identify a certain product with the figurative mark that represents it (such as Nike’s check or Apple’s chewed apple), and the quality associated with the product and the producer.

They also pointed out that, according to previous statements from the administrative authority trademarks would not be affected by the new legislation when used for identification purposes. However, it appears that there has been a unilateral change of criterion.

This new interpretative criterion produces effects similar to an expropriation. It prevents the use of an industrial property right, who was previously granted registration by the trademark authority, and which, is now being denied the use, which is at the very essence of the exclusivity granted by IPR (as established in the Chilean Intellectual Property Act and in the TRIPS agreements). On this regard, companies point out that limitations based on public health reasons must be established by law, in compliance with the Constitutional principle of legal reserve regarding limitations on dominance (as is the case, for example, with tobacco, where the law expressly refers to trademarks), a requirement that is not met in this case.

Finally, they claim that the use of the marks complies with the authorization granted through registration by the Trademark Office, and only for distinguishing purposes of the protected goods in accordance with the International Classification. Therefore, there would be no legal ground for the prohibition.

On the other hand, the Chilean Government relies on the preventive nature of the legislation regarding the fight against obesity in Chile and the need to transform the current environment into a healthier one that protects the population.

One of the option to achieve this purpose is by providing clearer and more comprehensible information to the consumer through the “HIGH IN” warning discs. These labels indicate that the foods bearing them contain high levels of sodium, saturated fats or sugars, therefore exceeding the limits established by the Ministry of Health. Another option is to protect children under 14 from overexposure to food “advertising” exceeding health limits established by the Ministry of Health. In this sense, advertising should be understood as any form of promotion, communication, recommendation, propaganda, information or action aimed at promoting the consumption of a given product.

The Food Health Regulations prohibit all kinds of advertising directed to children under 14 “regardless of where it is carried out”. They consider that some elements lead to the conclusion that this age group is the main target of the advertising campaign: “characters and or childish figures, animations, cartoons, toys, children’s music, if it contemplates the presence of people or animals that attract the interest of children under 14”. Furthermore, the legislation also prohibits offering or delivering these products free.

Thus, and even though it is true that trademarks have a distinguishing purpose, it is nonetheless also true that they fulfil multiple functions. One of them is advertising, which allows to position the distinguished product or service and thereby facilitate its promotion, influencing the purchase decision of the final consumer (catchy trademarks are more likely to attract the interest of consumers).

The Government also claims that industrial property rights are not absolute, they do admit limitations. According to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health itself, IP rights do not and should not prevent Member States from taking measures to protect public health.

In addition, the definition of “advertising” given by the Food Labelling Act and the Health Regulations is broad enough and does not distinguish whether or not a figure constitutes a trademark. Otherwise, registration as a trademark would be enough to escape the application of the rules set out by the regulation.

Finally, they assert that if these products were to adjust their ingredients and composition to the tables drawn up by the Ministry of Health, they would be free to use the figurative elements on their packaging, even for advertising purposes directly directed to children under 14.

This is an ongoing discussion and both sides have already exposed their arguments. For now, all that remains is to wait for the outcome of these cases and the opinion of the Chilean Courts of Justice. Regardless of the outcome of the claims, the real impact of this legislative change is to be seen on the long term (one or two decades), after which Chile must analyze whether or not they had the intended effect: is there a reduction in obesity rates? Has physical inactivity decrease?

Meanwhile, Chilean consumers are getting used to a new packaging, where classic figurative elements that used to accompany them have disappeared (such as Tony the Tiger on the Frosted Flakes or the colorful M&M’s). The packages are now “plain” and the predominant element is the word mark.

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.

Madrid System governed only by the Madrid Protocol

Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial

The Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks — the Madrid Protocol — is one of two treaties comprising the Madrid System for international registration of trademarks.

The protocol is a filing treaty and it provides a cost-effective and efficient way to ensure protection for marks in multiple countries through the filing of one application with a single office, in one language, with one set of fees, in one currency.

The Madrid Protocol also simplifies the management of the mark, since a simple, single procedural step serves to record subsequent changes in ownership or in the name or address of the holder with World Intellectual Property Organization’s International Bureau.

With the recent access of Algeria to the Madrid Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, the filing and management of international registrations will be simplified. Signatory to the Madrid Agreement since 1972, the country was the last of the 95 members of the Madrid System which was not party of the Protocol.

This represents a milestone for the Madrid System. From now on all the international registrations of marks will be exclusively governed by the Madrid Protocol.

As explained by WIPO, “An international registration produces the same effects as an application for registration of the mark made in each of the countries designated by the applicant. If protection is not refused by the trademark Office of a designated country within a specified period (12 or 18 months), the protection of the mark is the same as if it had been registered by that Office. The Madrid system simplifies greatly also the subsequent management of the mark, since it is possible to record subsequent changes (such as a change in ownership or a change in the name or address of the holder) or to renew the registration through a simple single procedural step with the International Bureau of WIPO. Further countries may be designated subsequently.”

La marca: una herramienta para la toma de decisiones

Carolina Belmar
Trademark Subdirector at INAPI

Día a día nos vemos rodeados de una abundante oferta de productos y servicios, más o menos similares, entre los cuales debemos decidir cuál de ellos elegimos. En este escenario, las marcas ayudan a diferenciar y distinguir unos de otros.

El origen de las marcas se remonta a la antigüedad, cuando los artesanos reproducían sus firmas o “marcas” en los productos y, si bien en un principio, buscaba indicar propiedad, con el desarrollo del intercambio comercial ha evolucionado para servir como identificador del origen de los productos y servicios que se ofrecen en el mercado. En este sentido, la marca es un elemento que ayuda a ordenar el mercado en tanto busca evitar la confusión en el público consumidor.

En Chile, las marcas comerciales se encuentran reguladas en el Título II de la Ley 19.039 de Propiedad Industrial, que señala que bajo la denominación de marca comercial se comprende “Todo signo que sea susceptible de representación gráfica capaz de distinguir en el mercado productos, servicios o establecimientos industriales o comerciales. Tales signos podrán consistir en palabras, incluidos los nombres de personas, letras, números, elementos figurativos tales como imágenes, gráficos, símbolos, combinaciones de colores, sonidos, así como también, cualquier combinación estos signos”.

Las marcas, por tanto, pueden incluir nombres de fantasía (Kodak para material fotográfico), figuras (piénsese en esa especie de tic que utiliza la marca deportiva Nike), sonidos (recuérdese los acordes en guitarra eléctrica de la compañía Virgin Mobile) o combinaciones de unos u otros.

La marca es percibida como un elemento de identidad en la extensa variedad de productos y servicios ofertados en el mercado, contribuye a la transparencia y favorece la competencia. La marca, además, puede servir para señalar que un determinado producto es depositario de ciertas connotaciones -negativas o positivas, según el cliente-, confrontándose con otras en el proceso de comercialización. Las experiencias de los consumidores, respecto de un determinado producto o servicio, le permitirán en sus decisiones futuras definir rápidamente la elección de uno por sobre otro. En esa decisión, la marca cumple un rol fundamental, facilitando la identificación y finalmente la adquisición.

Un producto que posee ciertas cualidades adquiere a través del tiempo un prestigio definido, que podrá potenciarse y mantenerse gracias a la acción de una marca posicionada. Esta reputación se hace extensiva no sólo al producto sino además a quien lo elabora, e incluso podría llegar a identificar a quienes lo consumen.

Una marca que se mantiene y consolida en el mercado es entonces un agente silencioso y eficaz de la procedencia, a la vez que como signo distintivo comunica cualidades y atributos del bien que se comprará o del servicio que se obtendrá. Por tanto, es capaz de desarrollar una especie de “personalidad exclusiva”, capacitada para prestigiar a fabricantes y consumidores.

Frente a la potencial adquisición de un producto o servicio y ante la multiplicidad de opciones, uno de los primeros elementos que atrae a la mayoría de las personas, es la marca. De allí que, en algunos casos, ha llegado a transformarse en un símbolo que entrega, o definitivamente niega, la calidad y confianza de los consumidores.

De las múltiples marcas que se usan profusamente en el mercado; sin embargo, sólo aquellas que han sido registradas cuentan con el derecho exclusivo de usar ese signo distintivo en el mercado para los productos o servicios en que ha sido registrado.

Mayores informaciones en

Two Cents on the new Industrial Property Law

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

The National Institute of Industrial Property (INAPI) is promoting the substitution of the current Industrial Property number 19.039 by a modern regulation which allows simple, faster and lower cost procedures on trademarks, patents and industrial designs.

The bill seeks to encourage innovation, knowledge transfer and allow consumers to discriminate products and services on a better way. I want to provide two cases, one related to trademarks and another to industrial design. The bill has contemplated the trademark expiration arguing the lack of real and effective use by the owner right or a third party with his consent in the national territory; this rectification pretends to guarantee the indissolubility link between the trademark, the object to be distinguished and the purpose in the market.

With such proposal, INAPI seeks to prevent the blocking on the trademark protection system due to the registry of simple formal rights producing saturation as well; in this way, we avoid the registration of trademarks with no intention to be used in the market and generating blocking for new entrants. The bill forces the registrant to properly use the trademark, with the aim to assure that every register counts with a product or service effectively traded in the market, notwithstanding that might be valid reasons to justify not using it.

In this manner, the owner right will fall into an expiration causal whether has been passed five years from the date of concession and the trademark has not been used in a real and effective way within national territory to distinguish the products or services for which has been granted; or in the case if such using has been uninterruptedly suspended during the same span.

The requirement of using is a demand that almost all countries consider in their trademark legislation. Chile is lagging on this issue and the bill goal is to prevent not using trademarks to impede the introduction of firms willing to use new denomination, either similar or identical, creating a barrier for competitors. In other words, the trademark registration must effectively reflect the reality on the market, because favors free competition and the creation of new businesses.

In the case of industrial design, the current legislation does not favor the national inventors and designers. The industrial design protects the appearances of functional objects, by its form, geometric configuration, and ornamentation or by their combination. Currently the legal proceeding for obtaining the industrial design is performed according to the applicable rules of invention patent; by other meaning, it uses time limit and formalities which are not fitting with his nature. As consequent it has a larger cost and longer processing time, which in many cases exceeds two years, making them a useless tool to foster those kinds of creations in our country. The industrial design is an intangible asset with a short useful life which is easy to copy; therefore a granting procedure as the present does not fit with its nature.

Hence the bill establishes a new procedure with the goal to stimulate the effectiveness on the legal proceeding and by this way adjusts to the needs of national inventors and designers. Having an expedited system for such rights is remarkably important if the aim is supporting entrepreneurs and innovators to protect their creations; therefore these modifications on the new bill are essential to benefit the applicants.

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!