Ensuring the protection of intellectual property in Mexico is fundamentally important to the country’s ability to attract foreign direct investment.
The success of manufacturers in the today’s global economy is largely dependent upon their ability to develop, protect and employ new technologies. Often more than is the case with physical items such as buildings, machinery and raw materials, intellectual assets are the most important ones that a company owns. Considering the critical nature and importance of developing, safeguarding and translating research and development into tangible products that industry and consumers can use, an understanding of the basics of the protection of intellectual property in Mexico is essential for company’s exploring the possibility of making manufacturing and other investments there. In order to successfully attract such foreign direct investment, Mexico must be certain that its intellectual property protection regime is capable of creating investor confidence.
The nature of the protection of intellectual property in Mexico changed significantly when the country became a party to the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, as well as entered into other international accords to ensure the protection of IP. Non-NAFTA internationl intellectual property agreements entered into by Mexico include membership in the:
- Word Trade Organization (WTO)
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
- Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
After the signing of the NAFTA, however, Mexico’s domestic “Ley de Propriedad Industrial,” or Industrial Property Law was reworked to conform to standards that would satisfy the terms negotiated into the newly signed agreement. Prior to 1994 cases that applied to the protection of intellectual property in Mexico could be attended to by a Mexican judge. From 1994 to the present, such cases have become the domain of arbitration courts. These judicial bodies operate under the guidelines and rules established by Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Chapter 11 is the section of the NAFTA in which the rights and protections of investors under the treaty are outlined and defined. Manufacturers need to know that protection of intellectual property in Mexico for them extends to:
Mexico extends patent protection on inventions or improvements for a period of twenty years. They are not renewable. Pharmaceutical companies may be granted patents for a slightly longer duration of twenty-three years. To be granted a patent, an invention or an improvement must be deemed to be non-obvious, original and must be related to an industrial application.
The right to exclusive use of trademarks is granted for a period of ten years, and are renewable for the same period of time, with the stipulation that they continue to be used for commercial purposes. Trademark requests in Mexico may be rejected, if they use common, generic or unoriginal language and/or markings.
Intellectual property protection in Mexico for manufacturers is also extended to “utility models” and “industrial designs.” According to Wikipedia, the law considers a utility models as being “objects, devices, machines or tools that, after having been modified in thier dispositon, configuration, structure or form, present a different function from the parts that make them up, or utility advantages.” Mexican law divides industrial designs into the categories of industrial drawings and models. While industrial drawings are “a combination of figures, lines or colors that are added to a manufactured product, giving to it a characteristic aspect,” “industrial models are three-dimensional shapes.” Intellectual property protection in Mexico is for a period of ten years for a utility model, and for a duration of fifteen years for an industrial design. Protection begins from the time at which the request for such consideration is made.
Trade secrets are also granted intellectual property in Mexico. “To be a trade secret, the information must be in reference to the nature, characteristics, or purposes of the products; to the methods or processes of production or to the means or forms of distribution or marketing of prooduts, or the rendering of services.”
Intellectual property in Mexico must be registered with the Mexican Institute of Industrial property, known in Spanish as the Instituto Mexicano de Propriedad Industrial (IMPI).