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The hottest trademark issues in Latin America

Registrants will be brought up to speed on the latest developments in Latin America with a regional update this afternoon, as Michael Loney reports.

Juan Pablo Silva of Chilean law firm Silva & Cia will moderate a session today covering four topics: non-use of trademarks in Latin America, ambush marketing, legislation involving health and food regulations and Internet-related issues. Speakers will include Verónica Maria Canese of Marval O’Farrell & Mairal, Jacobo Cohen Imach of MercadoLibre.com, Valdir de Oliveira Rocha of Veirano Advogados Associados and Agustin Velazquez of Avah Legal.

Repelling an ambush

The issue of ambush marketing is timely, given the learning experience of last year’s soccer World Cup in Brazil and next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro coming up.

Brazil passed a World Cup Law in 2012, which prohibited “ambush marketing by association” and “ambush marketing by intrusion,” and deemed such activities crimes punishable by fines and imprisonment. This law is being extended to cover the Olympics also.

Silva says the measures to combat ambush marketing were considered successful, although it is impossible to avoid all abuse or conflicts. For example, Adidas was an official sponsor of the World Cup, but other companies may sponsor the teams and individual players. One example of potential ambush marketing that was investigated by FIFA came when Brazilian star striker Neymar took his shirt off at the end of a match against Cameroon and, possibly accidentally, revealed part of his underwear made by Brazilian company Blue Man.

“People respected the legislation they launched and they hope to be receiving the same level of protection for this new event that is taking place next year,” says Silva. “But what happens when there is no event? What is going on with ambush marketing in this region in normal times? Are they being affected? Is it a serious issue for trademarks?”

Companies must be alert to these issues. Silva highlights the importance of education around this topic.

“In Chile we are educating lawyers not related with IP, we are educating judges, we are in permanent contact with police, we are organizing seminars and explaining the relevance of IP protection, not just for the companies but also for all of the consumers,” he says. “This not only benefits the companies when they find the trademarks are violated, it is also very important for the community. When people are cheated, it is not just the company that is affected. We’ve been in contact also with governments trying to obtain more funds for the police.”

Packaging issues

The issues of legislation around health and food regulations also look set to become a hotter topic in the region. Countries such as Australia, the UK and Ireland have either enacted or are discussing legislation for plain packaging for cigarettes. Latin American countries are “not really far” along in the debate around plain packaging, but Silva believes it is only a matter of time before they are.

“There are some countries more advanced than we are in this region,” he says. “So the question is: is this going to arrive to this region soon? According to what we are seeing, yes we are on that path.

Silva’s home country of Chile in 2012 proposed amendment to its Food Health Regulation that would place stop-sign-shaped warnings on fatty, salty and sugary foods. These would cover at least 20% of the main surface of the packing. This is intended to tackle an epidemic of obesity in the country. “The laws are very clear and it is just a matter of when it has to start,” says Silva of the legislation. “It was supposed to start last year and companies are delaying a little bit.”

The implementation of the amendment has been pushed back for a year. “So in one more year all of the packaging will have to be modified,” he adds.

RM50 Regional Update: 2015 Trends and Hot Topics in Latin America takes place between 3.30pm and 5.00pm. INTA is hosting a conference in New York in March 2016 on ‘Brands and Sports’.

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