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Interview: IMPI Director General Miguel Margáin

Mexico is tackling anticounterfeiting on two fronts, IMPI Director General Miguel Margáin tells Michael Loney: first, by using the laws available to conduct raids, seizures and inspection visits and secondly through awareness campaigns.

The relation between the private sector and the government is essential,” says Miguel Margáin, Director General of Instituto Mexicano de la Propiedad Industrial (IMPI). “We have found out that it is very, very important and we have been working on these relations. To tackle counterfeiting you have to involve both industry and government.”

Some of Mexico’s biggest challenges are counterfeit products related to audio and video, much of which is domestic, and clothing, footwear and accessories, most of which comes from Asia. “The main problem here is to make society aware that counterfeiting is not a victimless crime,” says Margáin.

IMPI has strong enforcement powers compared to its Latin American peers. ”We have been working closely with the customs department. I have always said that customs is an IP authority also,” he says.

Mexico has implemented a recordation system with customs. “So if the customs officers find out some counterfeits are coming into the country they will give a call both to the rights holder and IMPI, and we will start the paperwork,” explains Margáin. “They will allow us three working days to provide them with IMPI’s request to stop the free circulation of goods.” IMPI also holds training seminars with customs officers in the main ports of Mexico.

IMPI is active with authorities and groups outside its own borders. It has had joint actions with the U.S. authorities as well as with INTA. Last year, for example, INTA held its first Unreal Campaign student engagement session in Mexico as part of the program that aims to educate students about the dangers of counterfeiting and importance of trademarks. IMPI also had a program with the Business Software Alliance (BSA) to target software piracy. BSA found that Mexico had reduced its piracy rates from 65% in 2005 to 54% in 2013.

In April, IMPI and the White House Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator hosted a workshop, “Promoting IPR Enforcement Policy in Latin America: The Role of the Intellectual Property Office,” in Tequila, Mexico. The event, co-sponsored by INTA, is the first interactive forum on enforcing IP rights in Latin America. It featured participants from IP offices representing 12 countries.

“The key takeaways from the workshop were to develop a working plan and to share points,” says Margáin. “Also, to know that even though most of the Latin American offices don’t have enforcement powers, they have to push and they have an important role in the anticounterfeiting actions.”

Among Latin American IP offices, only Mexico, Peru and Paraguay have enforcement powers. “Some asked: ‘Well I don’t have powers so why should I attend?’ Well, even though you don’t have enforcement powers like IMPI does there is an important role you can perform in your country,” says Margáin. 

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