Learning and lobbying in Latin America
Ahead of this year’s Annual Conference, Michael Loney spoke to ASIPI President María del Pilar Troncoso about the Association’s priorities, the Madrid Protocol and IP in the Dominican Republic
María del Pilar TroncosoASIPI President
What are your biggest goals for your presidency of ASIPI?
Since its beginning, ASIPI has been a key institution for IP reference. Therefore, one of my biggest goals is to reaffirm and maintain our Association's position within the local and international stage, as a lead institution for IP culture.
During my presidency I hope to support countries in our region to make the most of intellectual property as a platform for international commerce. And with this to go deeper into IP issues that affect our region, including an exchange of information within our countries, in order to learn how they are handled in each of them.
I would like ASIPI to be a source of study for IP professionals, in order to improve the quality of their practice and its development, as well as being a space for networking. Through the project ASIPIEDUCA, we hope to motivate IP education among children, promoting respect and knowledge of IP as a cultural necessity.
Overall, my main goal is that ASIPI assists in creating a region that uses IP as a promoter of economic development.
What has ASIPI achieved so far this year?
This has been a very active year for ASIPI. Concerning education, ASIPI held four webinars, and three roundtables: two in Bolivia (La Paz and Santa Cruz de la Sierra), one in Paraguay; and we successfully held our Seminar on Anti-Counterfeiting in Aruba.
Regarding the events organised with sister associations and government authorities, we celebrated a seminar on "New labelling and packaging regulations" in the Dominican Republic, alongside the Dominican government; and co-sponsored the "Forum on Promoting IP Rights Enforcement" and WIPO's "Inventor's Assistance Program". Also, we held a seminar with INTA and COVAPI, regarding public policies in IP Venezuela, among other events.
We have kept our active participation as a member of the user association of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO); and our constant attendance and academic participation in our sister associations' congresses and seminars. Also, we coordinated with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) a round of workshops regarding PCT in several countries, which will take place in November.
Similarly, we have been working on a project with the International Trademark Association (INTA), to prove the positive impact of IP in the economy of five Latin American countries. Having tangible evidence of the benefits of IP, it will be easier to develop projects and activities that promote awareness of IP among the authorities in our region.
All of this, without stopping constant work and research regarding IP in the region, the job our working committees do every day, the plans for our future events and the daily tasks each member of our Association does.
Do you plan any changes to the organization of the Association, and in how it works with its members and other IP associations?
I do not plan to make changes, in the strict sense of the word. I firmly believe our predecessors have done a remarkable job, always following and being faithful to the guidelines that built our Association from the start. Time changes and ASIPI moves with them, developing and adapting itself to the modern culture and technology.
Without changing our essence, I believe we can always improve, we can always be better. I and the Executive Committee are looking forward to improving our Association, with new ideas, new methods to approach and study IP for our entire region. That is our goal, a fresh and updated culture of knowledge, respect and recognition of intellectual property.
ASIPI’s annual conference takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina in December this year
What are you particularly looking forward to at the ASIPI conference in Buenos Aires in December?
I am looking forward to the event as a whole. Our academic programme has very interesting subjects with well-known and high quality professionals sharing their inputs in each of them. Similarly, we prepared a round of five workshops with practical and innovative IP topics.
Also, during the event we have scheduled several meetings with IP authorities and international and local IP associations in order to evaluate the work we have done so far, and discuss future projects. Finally, I am also expecting to strengthen interpersonal and professional relations among the associates. To me, ASIPI's main events are always something to look forward to.
What are the biggest IP issues in Latin America?
Latin America needs to believe that IP is a source of self-improvement. It is imperative to devote more economic resources to research and development. Also, it is necessary that our countries formulate public policies that promote IP as a path to enhance economic growth, being aware of IP, how it works and what it protects. We Latin-Americans have intellectually rich countries with a highly creative population. However, we have not yet progressed into an informed culture of the positive consequences IP could provide.
We are certain there is a lack of initiative from potential inventors, because they have no financial or state support, they are not informed and as a result they do not know how to protect their work. It is tremendously difficult to incentivise national invention, without a palpable opportunity to carry out a project.
Another important issue in the region is counterfeiting, especially because in the last few decades Latin America has become a hotspot for the manufacturing and acquisition of forgeries and fake goods.
In the last few years, our IP offices have improved a lot in their internal processes, but there are still some countries that have a considerable backlog of cases.
As well, within the everyday practice, we need more judges with knowledge and some sort of experience of IP topics. It becomes more difficult to evaluate, discuss and complete an IP process with this inconvenience.
Madrid is a big issue in the region, but it seems there are mixed views on it. How successful has it been so far, and will other countries join?
International agreements are not equally beneficial to all countries. Depending on the type of economy, a treaty may be more favourable to some but not necessarily to others. I think it falls to each country to analyse the convenience to adopt the Madrid Protocol.
Consequently, it is a subject that should be studied by each country and its reality. In addition, it is necessary, on one hand, to review the current trade mark registration process in each of them, and evaluate its efficiency for users, and on the other hand, to prepare and be aware of the necessary adjustments that shall be made if said instrument is adopted, so it does not result in an unbalanced treatment for nationals.
Mexico and Colombia are the two Latin American countries that ratified the Madrid Protocol more recently (Cuba adopted it in 1995), and there are no uniform opinions on whether it has been beneficial for said countries.
How has the TPP agreement been received in Latin America? How big an effect will it have on the countries from the region that are part of it?
The TPP is a free trade agreement that aims to enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness, among other necessary marks to promote economic growth. As of February 2016, two Latin American countries had signed the agreement: Mexico and Peru.
The TPP has been well received, but as any agreement it has experienced its negative commentaries. It will help to make the countries more accessible in a context of a globalized commerce with lower limits each passing day. Naturally, it will boost exportation and the exchange or national goods in markets that were closed before.
On the negative side, if poorly implemented, the agreement might have certain collisions with the national legislation of the signatory countries. As well, without a proper supervision, some economic sectors might suffer a downfall, such as food and agriculture and textiles.
Both Mexico and Peru have developed a public policy of promoting trade goods and services, and taking this into consideration, signing the TPP was a logical move. However, even if the agreement has been signed, both governments must ratify it, so in practical reality, the TPP will be enforced around 2018, and additionally, after the ratification, national legislation must be revised. Only when both of these events happen, and we start implementing the agreement as a reality, we will be able to measure the actual effects of the treaty.
What are the biggest issues in your home country of the Dominican Republic at the moment?
My country faces almost all the same issues as Latin America. Unfortunately, we have low investment into research and development, very few public policies that promote IP as a path to enhance economic improvement, and lack of awareness of how and why IP is used.
We need judges with more knowledge regarding IP topics, especially when it comes to technical matters. In consequence, all of this makes most of the processes terribly slow, affecting the IP rights owners and weakening the trust in public institutions.
Nevertheless, I believe that in the last 15 years the Dominican Republic has become more aware of IP law and everything it involves, now we have a much more informed population about their IP rights. Recently, the National Office of Intellectual Property (ONAPI) celebrated the 2016 "Innovative Summer Camp", which is an initiative that motives high school students to pursue science careers and teach them about patentable innovation. However, these kinds of projects are harder to do due to the lack of financial investment and public policies.
For the Dominican Republic, the industry sector is extremely important, and our government aims to create a stable legal atmosphere for the all the economic sectors and the right development of IP. Our administration believes that information is the best method for consumers to have knowledge of the products they acquire, and therefore, the use of trade marks is the tool of excellence for said purpose, since it constitutes a condenser of the characteristics and qualities of the products.
At the present, the Dominican Republic counts with an adequate IP legislation, in accordance with international treaties. Also, its patents granting procedure has improved in the last years, and the trade mark registration procedure is expedited and efficient, that facilitates the local trade, as well as the domestic and foreign investment. I am certain from now on the IP practice on the Dominican Republic will only get better each passing year.