The IP outlook in Latin America and the Caribbean is improving, but there is still a lack of harmonization and there still needs to be more awareness of IP. José Luis Londoño, INTA’s Chief Representative Officer, Latin America and the Caribbean, tells Aaron McDonald more.
As INTA’s Chief Representative Officer, Latin America and the Caribbean, José Luis Londoño is optimistic about the increase in understanding of IP issues by companies and consumers in the region—although he acknowledges that authorities need to raise awareness on certain topics.
Mr. Londoño and his team are responsible for implementing INTA’s 2018–2021 Strategic Plan in the region and advocating for improved trademark rights, particularly regarding harmonization, enforcement, and anticounterfeiting.
Despite his positive forecast, Mr. Londoño says that one of the challenges facing the IP community is a lack of harmonization across the countries in the region.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to create awareness within companies.”
“We have seen a significant increase in the use of the IP system by Latin American and Caribbean businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises,” he explains. “However, IP policy in each country varies from government to government, and in some cases, there is a lack of IP policies. Therefore, IP owners face uncertainty, as they have to deal with negative consequences such as anti-IP trends like brand restrictions and growing illicit trade.”
Mr. Londoño adds that a handful of the countries in the region are updating their legislation to grant rights to non-traditional marks, enforce trademark owners’ rights, and offer simpler, faster, and more modern proceedings to obtain trademark registrations. For example, in 2018 Mexico made amendments to its trademark law, and Argentina approved Decree 27/2018, which amends legislation on various aspects of IP.
For INTA’s Representative Office, areas of focus are creating awareness of the negative impact brand restriction regulations (which limit a trademark’s basic function of being a product’s identifier) inflict on IP owners, coupled with communicating the positive contributions brands have made in the region.
Mr. Londoño expects local governments to introduce new policies supporting innovation within Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, he says, the region’s gross domestic product relies mainly on commodities, but supporting local innovation would help Latin America toward achieving new mechanisms of economic growth.
Latin American companies face obstacles such as unfair competition and so-called trademark trolls (entities that obtain trademark registrations they don’t intend to use in order to sell them to the rightful owner or to file infringement actions against them), he says. However, these challenges also have resulted in a better understanding by companies in the region of the importance of protecting IP rights.
“Are we in the best possible scenario? No,” Mr. Londoño admits.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to create awareness within companies. It is important for them to include IP in their strategy.”
For stakeholders at companies throughout the region, attending educational conferences locally or elsewhere can help them gain a better understanding of IP, he says. At INTA’s 2018 Annual Meeting, Latin America and the Caribbean will be well represented, with more than 1,200 registrants from the region.
This demonstrates that IP owners are eager to ensure that their rights are protected and to learn about the latest developments to achieve this goal.
INTA, INTA 2018, José Luis Londoño, trademark, harmonization, anticounterfeiting, IP system, non-traditional marks, Latin America