Colombia: a true step towards patenting procedure optimization

Sara Isabel Tortosa –  Partner at Tortosa Gadea Lawyers
Ana A. García Torralba – Junior associate attorney at Emilio García y Abogados Asociados

Colombia set, as an objective, the consolidation of an effective and reliable patent system. This objective has been reached as it has been statistically proven. According to the Colombian Intellectual Property Office, namely the Industry and Commerce Superintendency (SIC), the whole patent procedure now takes, depending on the technical field, from 1 to 3 years, which entails an improvement in comparison to the last decades, where a patent application could last more than 5 years.

In such a context, it is worth recalling the latest developments made by the Colombian patent system in order to reduce both filing fees and decision times.

However, improvements regarding national legislation is not the only driving factor. Indeed, the signature of several international agreements with other national and regional patent offices has meant significant advances in improving patent proceedings and services. Through these agreements, Colombia has contributed to the economic development, offering greater trading opportunities to Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

All these measures have effectively increased the number of patent applications (between 2011 and 2016, SIC reported an increase of 345% in the number of patent applications) and it is expected to continue growing over the next years.

Protecting your inventions in Colombia

After drafting a patent application, you have to decide where to file it. A patent granted by the Intellectual Property Office of Colombia, provides only national protection, due to the territorial nature of IPRs.

In order to acquire protection in multiple territories, investors and entrepreneurs as the European SMEs may submit their applications through the Patent Cooperation Treaty system; which Colombia joined on February, 2001.

The PCT is an international cooperation agreement, that enables to file a single “international” or “PCT” patent application valid across all the countries/regions in the PCT system, (see the full list of the 152 PCT members here), instead of filing several separate regional/national patent applications requiring multiple tasks such as translations and even taxes.

Keep in mind that whether or not the patent is finally granted remains under the exclusive competence of each national or regional intellectual property office. Each office will examine the application according to their national or regional laws. Thus, even if the application is international, the granting process, decision and its effects remain national.

The PCT is not only a cost-effective route to protect IPRs internationally. It will also allow to save and “buy time”, since the applicant gets up to 18 additional months to delay both:

  • the decision of whether or not to pursue patent protection and;
  • the substantial costs of the patent procedure arising in the national phase: appointing a foreign attorney, paying official fees and translate the application and documents required to the official language (when necessary). Take into account that some IP Offices offer reduced fees for SMEs.

This additional period may be crucial for European SMEs seeking to expand their own market, since it allows them to adequately evaluate where to pursue patent protection, and get more information regarding the novelty and the technical value of  their invention.

Colombia joins the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH)

Examining patent applications is a complicated task. Patent application are technical and complex documents, the examination carried out by patent examiners is exhaustive and the workload important. These were one of the main reasons that led to the creation of the so-called Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH): they constitute a work-sharing initiative between different IP offices, allowing patent applicants to request accelerated processing in the national phase.

The Global PPH (GPPH) Pilot Program launched in 2014, involves 24 patent offices around the world. Colombia, effectively joined on July, 2017, being the first and only (so far) adherent from Latin America. Under the GPPH, applicants can benefit from an accelerated examination through a simple procedure at their request.

To that end, patent examiners in a national or regional office are allowed to reuse the documents issued in the framework of a prior exam accomplished by another participating PPH office such as the Written Opinion issued by the international search and examination authorities.

The main goal of this procedure is to provide a fast-track prosecution and ease search and examination tasks, which directly benefits stakeholders. However, these documents are not binding, thus the final decision about whether or not to grant the patent rests within the hands of the national IP Office where the application has been filed according to its own applicable law.

It is, therefore, to be expected that such an agreement will be a boost for business, innovation and commercial growth of European SMEs. Indeed, shorter timelines stimulates SMEs’ creative intellectual endeavor for the benefit of public interest.

In order to be eligible for the GPPH, the applicant shall comply with the two following indispensable conditions:

  1.   A patent application must have been already filed before at least two GPPH participating offices by the applicant.
  2.   One or more claims should have already been deemed as patentable by any of the other offices involved.

The Global PPH pilot program superseded bilateral PPH pilot programs between the Colombian patent office and the other PPH partner offices. Participating Offices of the Global PPH pilot are listed here.

Since it is a pilot program, the limit of patent application before SIC is of 30 per month or 300 per year.

Benefits arising from the use of GPPH:

  • Effective reduction of patent pendency, (the amount of time between the filing date and the final decision’s day granting or refusing the patent).
  • Shortening of the examination period, because of the possibility to reuse search/examination history.
  • Allows to save time, money and effort for both applicants and GPPH participating offices.
  • Harmonization of qualifying requirements.
  • Improvement in the quality, since the previous work serves: as a basis for an accurate assessment of the patentability criteria; and also as an exchange of good practices between offices.

Colombia’s accession to the GPPH, is a clear sign of the active role that the country wishes to play in the international scene, in order to strengthen investors’ confidence. 
If your company wishes any further detailed information about protecting your IPRs in Latin America, do not hesitate to visit the Latin America IPR SME Helpdesk website or to contact our Helpline, it is free, fast and confidential.

Brazil new regulation proposal and measures for reducing patent backlog

IDS
Instituto Dannemann Siemsen de Estudos Jurídicos e Técnicos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Nuestro interés por patentar en el extranjero

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

Han pasado poco más de dos años desde que el Instituto Nacional de Propiedad Industrial, INAPI, empezara a operar como Administración encargada de búsqueda y examen preliminar internacional (ISA/IPEA) del Tratado de Cooperación en materia de Patentes (PCT), tanto para los solicitantes chilenos como para aquellos pertenecientes a los países de Latinoamérica y el Caribe, miembros de PCT.

El sistema PCT es la columna vertebral del registro de patentes internacionales. Es el Tratado más importante en materia de tramitación de patentes. Chile ingresó a este Tratado en 2009, y actualmente 148 países son miembros, y de ésos solamente 21 son ISA/IPEA (Autoridades de búsqueda y examen preliminar internacional), una categoría que habilita a emitir una opinión que puede ser utilizada por las oficinas de patentes de los restantes países miembros del tratado. Una de esas 21 oficinas es el INAPI, lo que la hace la segunda en la región en conjunto con la oficina de Brasil y la segunda en tener como idioma de trabajo el español, junto a la oficina Española.

Durante el primer año que INAPI ha funcionado como ISA/IPEA, desde el 22 de octubre de 2014 a diciembre de 2015, se presentaron 169 solicitudes internacionales PCT que designaron a INAPI como ISA, de las cuales 123 fueron chilenas y el resto de países latinoamericanos, quienes eligieron y confiaron en INAPI para realizar búsquedas internacionales.

Al respecto, debo destacar que de las solicitudes que nos han designaron como ISA/IPEA en ese periodo, 44 corresponden a universidades chilenas (más 5 extranjeras). Ese número es muy alto, y reafirma las cifras que se tuvieron durante ese período como Oficina Receptora, en donde 22 solicitudes de un total de 90 que se recibieron (equivalente a un 24,4%) fueron de universidades nacionales. Estos números superan claramente en forma porcentual las cifras globales respecto del patentamiento de universidades en PCT y, por otra parte, confirma el acierto de INAPI de fijar tasas diferenciadas y de menor valor para las casas de estudios superiores, como una manera de facilitar y promover la acción de las universidades en la innovación. Ello queda demostrado con las solicitudes presentadas por universidades con menos experiencia en el patentamiento de sus innovaciones, como la Universidad de Talca, la Universidad Andrés Bello y la Universidad del Biobío, las que se unen a otras ya más consolidadas como la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, la Universidad de Concepción y la Universidad de Santiago.

Las universidades son la fuente primaria de la mayoría de las innovaciones tecnológicas y son el puente perfecto para establecer un intercambio de doble vía entre la investigación por un lado y los negocios y la comercialización por el otro. En Chile las universidades están haciendo un buen esfuerzo en patentar y que deberían seguir haciendo y promoviendo.

La generación de nuevo conocimiento a través de la actividad científica de las universidades es un instrumento fundamental para llegar al desarrollo económico, social y cultural. Chile posee una tradición científica que lo sitúa en posiciones de vanguardia en términos de productividad a nivel latinoamericano y eso es lo que reflejan estas cifras.

Quiero decir que en INAPI estamos muy satisfechos con el número de solicitudes que nos han designado durante dicho período como ISA/IPEA de PCT, ya que ello da cuenta de la alta confianza que despierta INAPI en la comunidad de la Propiedad Industrial tanto chilena como de la región y a la vez nos genera una enorme responsabilidad con aquellos solicitantes que confiaron en nosotros para prestarles un servicio de búsqueda de calidad y eficiente.

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.