Interview: Cecilia Falconi, Partner at Falconi Puig Abogados, Ecuador
In our latest Women in IP interview Cecilia Falconi speaks to Alice O’Donkor about the sacrifices she has made in her career, her experience of maintaining a family-owned firm and the evolution of IP law in Ecuador
Cecilia Falconi describes herself as a latecomer to the IP profession having joined as a 29 year old, a wife and a mother to young children in 1987. Now, she is partner and a multidisciplinary lawyer at Falconi Puig Abogados, a firm founded by her father and fellow owner of the firm, Miguel Falconi. She describes “heritage and passion” as her main motivations for stepping into the IP profession. “When I was studying law at university, the IP area of the firm had already started,” says Falconi. “Although I knew nothing about the field, I started travelling to different conferences. I started learning more about the topics I had heard about.” While Falconi’s practice mostly consisted of trade mark searches and patents in the early days, she had a passion for geographical indications (GIs).
“Being objective, in those days, GIs were not a profitable IP field so I started looking in trade mark, distinctive signs and copyright,” says Falconi. After completing a course in copyright law at the University of Buenos Aires, Falconi developed an interest in IP litigation.
For 10 years, Falconi worked alongside her late brother, also called Miguel. Remembering her brother and “mentor in IP” who died in 1997, Falconi says: “He was a brilliant and well-recognised young attorney.” In only 10 years of practice and in addition to founding the firm’s IP practice, Miguel taught at the local university and wrote several publications on topics such as software protection, which was then considered as an emerging area of expertise in Ecuador and neighbouring countries.
After 20 years, Falconi still cherishes her brother’s legacy in a way that has influenced her own practice: “Miguel taught me how to understand IP law, interpret regulations and norms and be successful in litigation. He was a very bright guy. I am very proud to have had him not only as a brother, but as a boss and a mentor.”
Today, Falconi Puig Abogados, traditionally known as a corporate law firm, has developed a notable IP department. Falconi works on a range on IP issues with support from her team, comprising fellow partners and junior associates. Her main areas of expertise are patent, trade mark, design and regulatory law.
Changes in IP landscape
In over 25 years in practice, Falconi remains amazed by how things have changed. To better her practice, Falconi likes to stay abreast of issues in global IP: “Although I’m very conscious that Ecuador is not a huge country, the strategy of multinationals is very important for me to understand - where they are, where they want to be and where their competitors are.”
Since the signing of the TRIPs Agreement in Ecuador, Falconi says that she has witnessed the gradual fortification of trade mark law through a “chain of reforms” including those related to community regulations, the Paris and Berne conventions.
Mostly recently, the Organic Code of Social Economic Knowledge, Creativity and Innovation – also known as the Code of Knowledge or Código Ingenios – was introduced in November 2016 to simplify IP law in Ecuador.
While the Código Ingenios has introduced changes that will influence copyright law, collective rights societies and the burden of proof in counterfeit cases, Falconi does not predict that the Ecuadorian landscape will change too drastically. However she says that the new laws indicate “that the IP rights in the constitution are well recognised” and “a step towards innovation in our country". She continues: “This is nice because we have a solid court of law that establishes and recognises IP rights.”
Last year, Falconi took on a brand new challenge, moving to Paris to support her husband who had been appointed as the Ecuadorian ambassador at UNESCO. She did this all while remaining an active partner at the firm.
Speaking on the move, Falconi says: “It hasn’t been easy, but it has been fun!” She adds: “It was a difficult decision to move from Ecuador and leave my family behind, but when it came to my profession, I was always determined to work out of office.” Falconi says she has not felt any negative impacts of working abroad: “Technology helps a lot. If it were 20 years ago, I would not be in the same scenario.”
Falconi says that Paris has given her several opportunities including admission into the French society of patent and trade mark lawyers, APRAM, and the opportunity to study French, a language she has always loved.
To those who are considering a similar adventure or breaking new ground in their career, Falconi says: “Take opportunity as it comes, life is too short and it’s perfectly doable.” Though “sometimes changes bring us a sense of insecurity”, Falconi urges women to rise to step up and out of their comfort zones: “Women are a very important part of society right now. I see them being more active and having leading roles every day, both in the industry and law firms.”