What has taken place over the past 12 months for the AIPPI?
We are closely following the plain packaging debate before the World Trade Organization (WTO), where AIPPI (the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property) will deliver a presentation on IP as a trade resource during the public forum in Geneva at the end of September 2015. As WTO director Fernando Azevêdo said: “Trade should provide a seat for everyone at the table”.
We have been following the trademark changes in Europe through the trademark package initiative and have been participating in patent harmonisation studies in different jurisdictions.
AIPPI also recently participated in a multi-jurisdictional copyright book project that will be available soon.
Our observer status before Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) has been both demanding and rewarding, and we plan to return to Alicante in the future.
With your next congress due to take place in Brazil, what have Latin American members been working?
AIPPI is a global association that covers more than 120 jurisdictions. Our national groups, committees and individual members produce about 100 proposals for consideration in a given year. From those we identify four key topics that span the breadth of IP issues that are highly relevant for the IP community.
These topics are chosen for detailed analysis and debate, leading to AIPPI resolutions. We also select a diverse range of topical panel sessions for our annual educational programme.
This year, at our congress in Rio between 10 and 14 October 2015, we will debate trade secrets, free riding (trademarks), copyright exceptions and inventorship of multinational inventions.
We are also taking into account several topics of interest proposed by the Brazilian group, so our panels will include sessions on plant variety protection and green technology. No one wants to be on the outside of green technology and climate change issues. Even the Pope is interested in climate change.
How do you filter the proposals, to only end up with four IP issues?
The first point is that in any given year there will always be more than four IP issues that AIPPI feels need to be addressed. As mentioned, the four issues selected annually form the basis of AIPPI’s resolutions.
The power of these resolutions is that they represent the consensus view of AIPPI, having been studied by the national and regional groups, debated by experts and passed by vote at the executive committee. So the selection process is important.
Topics of relevance to the IP issues facing the world today are proposed. Our programme committee meets to analyse all proposals and shortlists them for consideration by the reporter general team and ultimately approval by the bureau. This rigorous process ensures that relevant and diverse topics are selected for AIPPI’s resolutions.
Similar rigour is applied to the selection of topics for the educational programme run at every congress, ensuring a balance of matters of global interest as well as topics of special interest for the region where the congress is held.
We hope that this year we will attract more Latin American attendees keen to address IP issues they have in the region.
We see that there is not much innovation protection in this part of America: only 2.5 percent of all patent applications come from Latin America. This number should rise in the future. We need to create more awareness of how to protect new technologies.
Latin American people are innovating, but are not always ready or knowledgeable on how to protect their innovations. This needs to change. At the same time, there is a kind of anti-IP sentiment, especially among young people, who ask: “why should I pay for this?” This is particularly true in the virtual environment, because sometimes IP is reduced to just vibrations that travel through the air (books, games, apps, music, pictures, and movies). Even money is transformed into a fingerprint scan. So they ask: “Why it is so easy to get a file, but at the same time I am restricted from using it?”
Would education programmes raise awareness of IP and help Latin America become more innovative?
Absolutely. IP awareness programmes are most welcome in the Latin America region. This should be done at all levels: schools, children, commerce, judiciary, and so on. Today, we no longer have local markets in the old sense. Even the smallest markets are affected by global IP rules and principles. In many cases the customer is the smartphone that dictates to its holder how and what to buy.
How well positioned are IP systems to encourage innovation in the life sciences?
Culturally, innovation protection is a bit slow in Latin America. Only during the last few years are innovators realising they can protect their inventions with a patent or other means of protection. Typically, the order was to create and publish and do nothing. Innovators are now realising they can create, protect and then publish.
Efforts are being made in this vein with universities taking the lead in developing innovation centres, shaping IP policies and spreading the message to create and protect. It is happening now and it will create an impact in the near future.
I am optimistic about this. Latin American governments are also offering tax incentives for start-ups, so it would have a positive effect, even if it means there is more to comply with.