Much like with the North American Free Trade Agreement, the recently negotiated United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is set to introduce significant changes to Mexico's IP system. Several legal and administrative changes have already reshaped the patent prosecution landscape, particularly with regard to inventions. Even more changes are expected as the new trade agreement is implemented over the next five years.
The IP chapter of the recently negotiated US-Mexico-Canada Agreement is one of the most comprehensive of all of the treaties negotiated by the parties to date. However, despite all of the criticism and buzz surrounding the chapter, will Mexico actually have to make that many changes to its existing patent system? In practice, the negotiated text appears to be more of a compromise not to change than a commitment to change.
Various amendments to the Industrial Property Law's trademark chapter recently entered into force. The amendments make a number of important changes, including introducing a requirement for trademark owners to submit a declaration of use within three months from the three-year anniversary of the granting of their mark's registration. If such declaration is not filed within this period, the registration will lapse. Several discussions have taken place in order to clarify the criteria that will apply in this regard.
A number of amendments to the Industrial Property Law's trademark chapter recently entered into force. Among other things, the amendments stipulate that a declaration of use must be submitted within three months of the three-year anniversary of the granting of a trademark registration. If such a declaration is not filed, the trademark registration will lapse. Other key changes concern non-traditional trademarks, coexistence agreements and letters of consent and certification trademarks.
The government recently approved a reform of the IP Law, which aims to harmonise it with international legislation. Some of the key amendments that will affect trademark litigation are the additions of Article 90(XXII), which establishes bad faith as a prohibition against obtaining a trademark registration, and Article 151(VI), which makes it possible to cancel a trademark registration obtained in bad faith.
The Supreme Court of Justice recently considered the legal relationship and boundaries between the right to free speech and the enforcement of copyright on the Internet and established four non-obligatory criteria which reflect that the Internet is a fundamental instrument for exercising free speech. Ultimately, excluding in exceptional situations, general restrictions on a website's operation on the basis of copyright infringement will not be considered constitutionally valid.
In IP rights proceedings, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) often requires IP rights holders to pay a bond which will cover the damages that could be caused to the infringer following the imposition of preliminary injunction measures. A federal circuit court recently issued a criterion which recognises the right of parties to request the IMPI to adjust the initial bond so that it provides complete coverage for the damages that the provisional measures will cause.
As Mexico considers its dependence on the United States, it is timely to promote the protection of plant varieties developed in Mexico, as the proper protection of this type of asset will generate wealth, promote innovation and strengthen the economy. At present, 2,511 varieties of 63 species are registered under federal law. These figures are healthy; however, given the agricultural nature of the Mexican countryside, they should be much higher.
Depending on the matter involved, Mexico's IP laws – alone or in combination – provide rights holders with the necessary tools to take legal action against counterfeiting and seize illegal merchandise and obtain preliminary injunctions and seek appropriate remedies against infringement. A clever strategy will help rights holders to keep the costs of anti-counterfeiting initiatives down, while still ensuring that such activities are as effective as possible.
The Industrial Property Law establishes that rights holders can use a mark once they have obtained an exclusive right to do so by registering it with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property. However, to maintain its validity, the registered mark must be used consistently. The consequences that trademark owners face with regard to an unused mark are serious, as they include cancellation.
Being a so-called 'market follower' is a common business strategy in today's consumption-based economy. Companies following this strategy imitate market leaders in a defined market or commercial sector in such a way that enables them to avoid direct confrontation and benefit from the leaders' innovation. While most countries' IP protection rules distinguish between what is and is not permitted with regard to imitation, in Mexico this distinction is unclear.
If the owner of a trademark, patent or design fails to notify the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) of a corporate change, legal consequences can arise. For example, if the owner of a trademark, patent or design does not notify the IMPI of a change of ownership, the new owner's right to defend its IP rights will be affected. Further, if the owner fails to notify the IMPI of a licensing agreement or security interest, the agreement will have no effect on third parties.
In the past 20 years, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) has made it easier for IP owners to use online services. In March 2016 the biggest steps towards a serious change were taken – namely, the issuance of rules for electronic filing and the launch of the online patent and notification systems. However, there is still some way to go before the IMPI is completely paperless.
While innovation in life sciences is key, the efforts required to bring new drugs, devices and other healthcare technologies to market are increasingly burdensome. Accordingly, intellectual property plays a crucial role in protecting investments and incentivising healthcare innovation, although patent regimes often encounter difficulties with regard to patentable subject matter and the evaluation of inventiveness for new technologies.
The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property recently adopted a new rule stipulating that if a rights holder does not file for review or appeal the cancellation of a trademark, registration of the pending trademark will be granted within 45 working days, despite the fact that the decision will still be subject to appeal. It is unclear what would happen if suspension of the newly registered trademark were not requested and the cancellation action were revoked.
In light of the changing global regulatory landscape, patent owners are increasingly seeking stronger patent protection, including for patents that are already in force. Rights holders should therefore be aware of the available post-grant amendment procedures and the type of changes to the granted patent that are permitted in each jurisdiction. Mexican law explicitly allows such amendments to correct errors or limit the extension of the claims.
A legal framework comprising four separate laws governs counterfeiting in Mexico. These laws – alone or in combination – provide rights holders with the necessary tools to take legal action against counterfeiting and seize illegal merchandise, obtain preliminary injunctions and seek appropriate remedies against infringement.
For many years, IP management of government-funded projects in Mexico was non-existent. Mexican law was silent regarding both the ownership of such projects and the agreements governing how grant money was spent. Nevertheless, recent changes in innovation policy have mandated changes in the management of such projects in order to prepare for future innovation opportunities.
Increasingly, Mexican patents have a different (often broader) scope from their foreign equivalents due to opposition proceedings or post-grant reviews held abroad. This situation has led patentees to consider the post-grant amendment of the scope of such patents more often. However, patentees must consider certain issues when assessing the feasibility of amending the claims of a granted patent in Mexico.
Taking heed of technological developments, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) has made the Mexican IP protection system easier to use and more efficient by introducing online filing and search systems. Fortunately – for both the IMPI and system users – recent statistics on the online trademark application filing and design search systems are especially positive and are likely to improve further in the coming years.