Argentina: Keep an eye on the IP changes to come

Eli Salis – Partner attorney at Disain IP
María Dolores Cavoti Sadonio – Associate attorney at Kors Noviks 

Argentina is one of the countries that will introduce in 2018 some major changes in its Intellectual Property Law.

That´s why all SMEs should be aware that change is coming and make sure to count on specialized practitioners to guide them through these changing times.

The Decree Nº 27/2018, published on January the 11th, 2018, seeks to reduce and simplify proceedings and timeframes before Public Offices. The main aim of these measures is to ensure a public administration synonym of efficiency, effectiveness and quality in its relations with the citizens.

The Decree is in force since January the 12th, 2018, but some of the changes need to be implemented and developed through specific guidelines, which are still under issuance and revision period. Additionally, resolutions issued by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) should also be taken into account.

Given the major and substantial changes introduced by the Decree, the same has also been sent, in parallel, to the Houses of the Congress to be studied and approved under the form of a law.

What are the most relevant changes?

Regarding trademarks:
  1. Rhe opposition procedure is changed: if the parties cannot reach a settlement regarding oppositions within a 3-month time period, the PTO will be in charge of resolving about them. Said resolution can be appealed before Federal Courts;
  2. Be aware that partial cancellation for lack of use is introduced;
  3. There is now an obligation to declare the use of the mark, between the year 5thand the end of the year 6th of validity;
  4. Nullity actions may be solved by the PTO, instead of a Court of Justice.

One of the most important changes is the one operated regarding the opposition proceeding: mediation and Court actions are no longer mandatory to overcome an opposition, being the PTO in charge of taking a decision on the subject. This will reduce the costs for SMEs when solving oppositions in this country.

Regarding Patents and Utility Models:
  1. It is no longer necessary to submit the certificate of priority, being enough to claim the priority specifications. It is during the substantive examination that the Examiner might request a copy of the priority document and the corresponding translation;
  2. Reduction of the terms for the proceedings, i.e., the term to pay the substantive examination is reduced from 3 years to 18 months, for example, for Patents, and from 3 years to 3 months, for Utility Models;
  3. For Utility Models once the examination fee is payed, the PTO will conduct the substantive examination, then publish the application and if no observations are filed, the application will be granted.
Regarding Industrial Models and Designs:
  1. Hand-made models and designs can now be protected.
  2. New exceptions regarding the loss of novelty
  3. Possibility to request delaying the publication of the grant for up to six months,
  4. An application may include up to 20 models/designs, as long as they belong to the same class according to the International Classification,
  5. Renewals can now be filed six months before the expiration date and up to six months after said due date (with the corresponding increase in the fees).

IP owners and practitioners will have to monitor further developments and interpretation of this new piece of law, not only from the PTO but also from the House of the Congress. There are still several interesting issues that will be subject to a follow up report. Stay tuned!

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.