Encouraging Developments in IPOs



By Pablo Angelelli

Industrial Property (IP), the set of legal instruments such as patents, trademarks, geographical indications and industrial designs, among others, is an essential tool to promote business innovation.

In fact, IP encourages innovation through various mechanisms. Firstly, for having the exclusivity for a limited period of time to use, sell and produce their inventions, innovators are rewarded by monopolistic incomes, in exchange for having invested resources in uncertain and risky activities such as the ones related to innovation.

Secondly, in exchange of this benefit, the innovator must disclose his/her invention so that any person with enough knowledge of the state of the art can replicate it, which boosts technological diffusion and encourages competitors to implement a new layer of innovation from it.

A balanced IP system should not only protect pioneers, but also foster dissemination and access to knowledge, allowing in the long run growth of productivity and employment. Most states have specialized institutions to provide these IP services: National Industrial Property Offices (ONAPIs)

In emerging and underdeveloped innovation systems, such as those in Latin America and the Caribbean, IPOs face a number of challenges regarding the efficient IP management. In particular, it is difficult to possess a critical mass of trained examiners able to process properly and in time all patent applications and designs received by each office, there are financial limitations to access international databases to carry out the state of the art search processes, there is a lack of specialists in the area of diffusion and transfer of technology, and it’s not always possible to access the most up-to-date computer tools to manage the operational processes associated with the protection and dissemination of IP, among others.

In recent years, joint activities have been developed in the region among IPOs to improve their trademark and patent granting processes and to make technological knowledge available to the general public. However, through its Regional Public Goods (BPR) Initiative, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) supports this international cooperation to take on a new dimension. Indeed, from the project “Cooperation Systems on Aspects of Operational Information and Industrial Property” (RG-T1688) (also known as “PROSUR”), nine countries in South America –Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay– started a systematic exchange both of information and IP management experiences. This project, executed between 2010 and 2014, allowed substantial progress setting regional cooperation agreements and mechanisms at the technical level in the field of patent examination, developing for this purpose a regional computer platform for the interconnection of IPOs, as well as the information on the procedures for the granting of trademarks in the nine PROSUR offices.

Since 2014, IDB and IPOs in South America have been developing a second project called “Consolidation of Cooperation between Industrial Property Offices in South America” (RG-T2429), through which we expect to generate a mature institutional framework for regional cooperation in IP, deepening the work carried out in patents, developing collaborative services in trademarks and, essentially, running specific technological information services into productive and research arena, to contribute to the development objectives of the entire region and to achieve sustainability of the initiative.

The results of collaborative efforts among IPOs to date are encouraging. Levels of collaboration among offices are intense, with regular meetings between directors and technical staff. There are important advances in collaborative schemes in patents, trademarks, computer systems and technological dissemination.

Now other offices in Central America are joining the process initiated in South America. Looking ahead, it is important that each one of the participating IPOs maintain their efforts so that this model of collaboration in the field of IP becomes a successful example of integration for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Pablo Angelelli

Specialist Leader at the Competitiveness and Innovation Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Santiago, Chile.

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