The Intellectual Property Review: Brazil
Forms of intellectual property protection
Intellectual property protection and enforcement in Brazil is highly influenced by international treaties and multilateral agreements, such as:
- the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works;
- the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property;
- the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS);
- the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT);
- the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations;
- the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks;
- the Strasbourg Agreement Concerning the International Patent Classification;
- the Vienna Agreement Establishing an International Classification of the Figurative Elements of Marks;
- the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) Convention; and
- the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Convention.
Brazil has structured a legal framework that provides for intellectual property protection in all its most relevant forms (i.e., copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial designs, trade secrets and software).
In Brazil, the provisions of trademark, patent, industrial design and unfair competition law are collectively set out in the Brazilian Industrial Property Law (Law No. 9,279/96) (BIPL). Of note regarding copyright and software law are the Brazilian Copyright Law (BCL) and the Brazilian Software Law (BSL), respectively.
i Copyright and neighbouring rights
Copyright and neighbouring rights are governed in Brazil by the BCL, which establishes that the intellectual works that are protected are creations of the mind, whatever their mode of expression or the medium in which they are fixed, tangible or intangible, known or susceptible to invention in the future. The BCL broadly defines literary, artistic and scientific works as being the subject matter of copyright.
The BCL guarantees authors' 'moral rights' (e.g., the right to claim authorship of the work at any time and to keep the work unpublished), as well as 'economic rights' (the right of economic exploitation of the work), which include exclusive rights to, among other things, reproduce, distribute, adapt, perform and display the work.
The economic rights of the author are protected for 70 years from 1 January of the year following their death. The moral rights involved are inalienable and irrevocable (i.e., they cannot be transferred, licensed or waived).
On the other hand, the Brazilian copyright system presents legal limitations to the author's exclusive rights. An example of this is the provision of Item VIII, Article 46 of the BCL, which states that it does not constitute violation of copyright to reproduce in any work short extracts from existing works, regardless of their nature, on condition that the reproduction is not in itself the main subject matter of the new work and does not jeopardise the normal use of the work reproduced or unjustifiably prejudice the author's legitimate interests.
Registration is optional for purposes of protection. Assuming that the work is original, it will be afforded copyright protection irrespective of registration.
Although not mandatory, copyright registration is still recommended as a way to evidence authorship, especially in light of the Brazilian government's choice to adopt a first-to-create system of copyright protection.
The BIPL establishes that any distinctive, visually perceptible sign may be registered as a trademark, provided that it does not fall within the prohibitions set out in the law. The requirement of visual representation excludes from the scope of protection non-traditional trademarks such as olfactory, sound and gustatory marks. On the other hand, the protection of three-dimensional signs has been admitted in Brazil since the enactment of the current BIPL.
The BIPL sets out, in its Article 124, a list of examples of signs that are not registerable as trademarks. The list includes:
- signs of a generic, necessary, common, usual or merely descriptive character, when relating to the product or service to be distinguished, or those commonly used to designate a characteristic of the product or service in respect of the nature, nationality, weight, value, quality, and moment of production of a product or provision of a service, except when the sign is presented in a sufficiently distinctive manner;
- signs or expressions used only as a means of advertising;
- colours and their names, except when arranged or combined in an unusual and distinctive manner; and
- names, prizes, or symbols of sporting, artistic, cultural, social, political, economic, or technical official or officially recognised events, as well as imitations likely to cause confusion, except when authorised by the competent authority or entity promoting the event.
Trademark protection in Brazil is based on the first-to-file system. The BIPL states that the ownership of a mark is acquired by means of a validly granted registration, following which the title holder has an established right to exclusive use of the trademark throughout the national territory.
Nevertheless, the BIPL also provides protection for the owners of trademarks not yet registered with the Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (BPTO). One example of this protection is the right of prior use. This right applies to any person who, in good faith, at the date of priority or the filing date of the application, has been using an identical or similar mark for at least six months in Brazil to distinguish or certify a product or service that is identical, similar or akin. That person has a preferential right to registration.
Another example is the protection afforded to trademarks that are well known in their field of activity (see Article 6 bis (1) of the Paris Convention). Well-known trademarks are given special protection independently of whether they have been previously filed or registered in Brazil. The BPTO has powers to reject ex officio a trademark application that wholly or partially reproduces or imitates a well-known trademark. On the other hand, in the event of the owner of a well-known trademark filing an opposition or an administrative nullity action based on its well-known trademark, it has a period of 60 days commencing on the filing of the opposition or administrative nullity action in which to file an application for the registration in Brazil of its well-known mark.
The BIPL also prescribes that signs that imitate or reproduce, wholly or in part, a third-party mark of which the applicant could not be unaware, owing to the commercial activity in which they engage, are not registerable as trademarks if the sign is intended to distinguish a product or service that is identical, similar or akin to that covered by the existing mark and is likely to cause confusion or association with the third-party mark. As a consequence, the BIPL enables the owner of a trademark that has not yet been filed or registered in Brazil to challenge third parties who attempt to register similar or identical trademarks. Similar to the situation mentioned above, the owner of the trademark has a 60-day term in which to file an application for registration of their mark in Brazil, with the period commencing on the date they filed the opposition or administrative nullity action.
When applying for registration in Brazil, there is no need to claim prior use or to submit proof of use of the trademark. Multi-class applications are not currently allowed in Brazil; however, because of the country's accession to the Madrid Protocol, it will be possible to file a trademark application in Brazil in more than one class when the BPTO implements the system, which was scheduled to occur on 9 March 2020 but which was postponed and a new date has not been announced yet.
The trademark registration remains in effect for 10 years commencing on the date of its grant and may be renewed for equal and successive periods.
The BIPL establishes two types of patents: patents of invention and utility models.
According to Article 8, an invention is eligible for patent protection if it satisfies the requirements of novelty, an inventive step and industrial application.
An invention will meet the novelty requirement if it is not part of the state of the art. The state of the art consists of everything that became known or accessible to the public prior to the filing date of the patent application, by use or by any other means, in Brazil or abroad, with a few exceptions provided by the BIPL. In addition, an invention is endowed with an inventive step if, for a person skilled in the art, the invention does not derive in an evident or obvious manner from the state of the art. Lastly, an invention is capable of industrial application if it can be used or produced in any kind of industry.
An object of practical use or any part thereof is patentable as a utility model, provided that it is capable of industrial application, presents a new form or arrangement, and involves an inventive act that results in functional improvement in its use or manufacture. The requirement of an inventive step in utility models requires a lesser degree of inventiveness.
The term of protection of patents of invention is 20 years and of utility models 15 years, commencing on the filing date of the respective application before the BPTO. The law prescribes, however, that the term will not be less than 10 years for a patent of invention and seven years for a utility model, commencing on the date of granting, except where the BPTO is prevented from carrying out substantive examination of the application owing to a duly evidenced judicial dispute or for reasons of force majeure.
Inventions that are contrary to morality, customs, or public safety, policy and health are not patentable, nor are the following:
- discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
- purely abstract concepts;
- commercial, accounting, financial, educational, advertising, raffling, and inspection schemes, plans, principles or methods;
- literary, architectural, artistic, and scientific works or aesthetic creations;
- computer programs per se;
- presentation of information;
- games rules;
- surgical techniques and methods, as well as therapeutic or diagnostic methods, for application to humans or animals;
- all or part of natural living beings or biological materials found in nature, even if isolated therefrom, including the genome or germoplasm of any natural living being, and the natural biological processes;
- substances, materials, mixtures, elements or products of any kind, as well as the modification of their physical–chemical properties and the respective processes for obtainment or modification, when resulting from the transformation of the atomic nucleus; and
- all or part of living beings, except for transgenic microorganisms that satisfy the three requirements of patentability and that are not mere discoveries.
According to the BIPL, a person who, in good faith, prior to the filing or priority date of an application, was using the object of the patent application is allowed to continue the use, without onus, in the same manner and under the same conditions as before.
A patent confers on its title holder the right to prevent third parties from, without consent, producing, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing a product that is the object of the patent and a process or a product directly obtained by a patented process.
Finally, the BIPL authorises the patent applicant or title holder to request a certificate of addition to protect an improvement or development introduced into the claimed invention that is the subject of a patent application or a granted patent, provided that the same requirements for inventiveness are satisfied.
iv Industrial designs
An industrial design is an ornamental plastic form of an object, or an ornamental arrangement of lines and colours, that might be applied to a product to provide a new and original visual result in its external configuration and that might serve as a model for industrial manufacture.
The industrial design is considered new when it is not included in the state of the art. The state of the art consists of everything made available to the public prior to the filing date of the application, in Brazil or abroad, by use or by any other means, with a few exceptions provided by the BIPL.
The industrial design is considered to be original when it results in a distinctive visual configuration in relation to other prior objects. The original visual result may be derived from the combination of known elements. An application for an industrial design registration must refer to a single object. Multiple designs, however, are admitted under the BIPL. An application may include a plurality of variations, provided that they are destined for the same purpose and retain the same predominant distinctive characteristic.
Creations of purely artistic character are not considered industrial designs. Furthermore, the necessary common or ordinary shape of an object or shapes, essentially determined by technical or functional considerations, cannot be registered as an industrial design.
Similarly to patents of invention and utility models, prior rights to users in good faith are also granted in connection with industrial designs.
The term of registration of an industrial design is 10 years from the filing date of the application, extendable for three successive periods of five years each.
v Trade secrets
The nature of trade secret protection in Brazil differs from the protection of trademarks and patents. Whereas owners of trademarks or patents have a property right, the owner of a trade secret has a right against acts of unfair competition. Trade secrets include confidential information relating to business or administrative strategies, data submitted as part of an application for approval for the sale of certain types of products, and industrial and technological information.
To prove violation of a trade secret, it is necessary to assert that the alleged infringing conduct is exactly that described in the statute, particularly in the BIPL.
The Brazilian Criminal Code also provides penalties for undue disclosure of a trade secret, and Brazilian employment law entitles employers to dismiss employees for 'just cause' (i.e., without compensation) if employees expose trade secrets. A trade secret remains enforceable for as long as the information remains secret.
The BSL states that the protection system for software is the same as that granted to literary works by the copyright statute. Nonetheless, this provision does not preclude a computer program from patent or trade secret protection.
Software is protected for a term of 50 years as from 1 January of the year following its publication or creation. As with any copyright work, software rights arise from creation regardless of registration, although registration is advisable.
vii Other intellectual property statutes and regulations
The regimes described above are the foundation of Brazil's intellectual property regime. Perceived gaps in the availability of protection for certain creations of the human endeavour have given rise to specific legislation. For instance, Brazil has enacted a law that provides for the protection of intellectual property of integrated circuits (Law No. 11,484/2007) and a Plant Variety Protection Law (Law No. 9,456/1997).
Trade dress can also be protected in Brazil under the unfair competition provisions of the BIPL.
In order to regulate the exclusivities relating to intellectual property rights, the Brazilian government created certain administrative bodies. Of particular note relating to the pharmaceuticals industry is the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) (Brazilian Food and Drug Administration), the agency that regulates, controls, and inspects products and services that involve public health. ANVISA issues marketing authorisations for the sale of drugs in Brazil. In addition, ANVISA is responsible for the examination of pharmaceutical patent applications, along with the BPTO, with regard to safeguarding human health.
i Brazilian Federal Supreme Court issued a decision regarding the constitutionality of the sole paragraph of Article 40 of the BIPL
In May 2021, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court issued a decision on the Direct Unconstitutionality Action (ADI) 5529 and concluded, by nine votes to two, that the sole paragraph of Article 40 of the BIPL, which establishes a minimum validity term for patents, is unconstitutional. The court decided that the effects of the decision would not affect patents granted until the date of publication of the judgment, except in regard to (1) patents being discussed in ongoing lawsuits that have as their object the constitutionality of the sole paragraph of Article 40 of the BIPL, and (2) patents that are in force with a term defined by the sole paragraph of Article 40 of the BIPL, concerning patents relating to pharmaceutical processes and products and healthcare equipment and materials.
As for patents within the pharmaceutical area that were still in force and that enjoyed the minimum patent term prescribed by the sole paragraph of Article 40 of the BIPL, the BPTO has been ordered to publish the reissuance of the letters patent, to have the term of 20 years counted from their filing dates.
ii Prior consent from ANVISA for the granting of patents of pharmaceutical products and processes no longer needed
In August 2021, the Brazilian Federal Government sanctioned Law No. 14,195/21, which amends and revokes procedural acts to reduce bureaucracy and to bring innovations to the business process, giving special attention to foreign trade. Among the modifications brought by this law is the revocation of Article 229-C of the BIPL, which prescribed the need for the prior approval of ANVISA for the granting of patents of pharmaceutical products and processes in Brazil. However, ANVISA can still present subsidies for the examination of a patent application for pharmaceutical products and processes.
iii New parameters for compulsory licensing of patents
The Brazilian Federal Government sanctioned, in September 2021, Law No. 14,200/21, which amends the Brazilian Industrial Property Law regarding the compulsory licensing of patents or patent applications in cases of national, international, or public interest emergencies or public calamity.
This measure amended Article 71 of the BIPL to bring new procedures for the granting of compulsory licences for patents or patent applications, and included Article 71-A, which provides for the licensing of patents or patent applications exported to countries with insufficient production in the pharmaceutical sector. Compulsory licences will be decided on a case-by-case basis upon payment of an indemnity to the patent owner. In addition, compulsory licensing will be determined by the government only in the exceptional event that the patent holder refuses or is unable to meet the local needs.
iv BPTO starts recognising the right of precedence in registration in all stages of the administrative sphere
An Opinion of the specialised federal prosecutor's office at the BPTO, which makes it possible to claim the right of precedence in registration in all stages of the administrative sphere, including in administrative nullity actions, was approved and published in the Official Gazette on 3 November 2021. Considering that this Opinion was given normative effect, it entered into force at the moment of its publication.
The BPTO's previous position on the subject was that the recognition of the right of precedence in registration could occur only until the granting of registration of a trademark (i.e., the interested party had to claim the right in the opposition phase). The BPTO did not recognise the right of precedence in registration in the context of an administrative nullity action, nor did it agree with the claim if it was formulated in a judicial action.
The change of the BPTO's position regarding the subject puts it in line with the jurisprudence of the Superior Court of Justice on the matter. Since 2016, the court has consolidated the understanding that admits the possibility of recognising the right of precedence in registration at any time, even after the granting of the registration by the BPTO, through either an administrative nullity action or a judicial action.
v Action Plan for 2021–2023 for the Brazilian National Intellectual Property Strategy approved
The National Intellectual Property Strategy (ENPI) is a set of 210 actions proposed by the Inter-Ministerial Group on Intellectual Property in Brazil in partnership with WIPO to be taken during a 10-year period (from 2021 to 2030) and includes several guidelines, including (1) the strategic use of intellectual property in public policies to encourage competitiveness and development; (2) agility in intellectual property procedures; (3) a balance between intellectual property, competition and social interest; and (4) a guarantee of legal certainty, transparency and predictability on intellectual property matters. The Action Plan for 2021–2023 prioritises 49 out of the 210 actions.
The goals include dissemination and training in intellectual property and governance and institutional strengthening for further compliance and legal certainty.
vi BPTO's regulation allowing the registration of signs as position marks comes into force
The BPTO's Regulation No. 37, of 13 September 2021, which allows the registration of signs as position marks in Brazil, came into force on 1 October 2021.
According to Article 1 of the regulation, a distinctive sign is registrable as a position mark if it is capable of identifying products or services and distinguishing them from others that are identical, similar or akin, provided that the sign is formed by the application of a feature in a singular and specific position of given support and the application of the sign in the referred position of the support can be distinguished from technical or functional effects.
From a practical point of view, however, the BPTO's Trademark Guidelines have not been updated until now, so details of position mark applications are still pending. In addition, Article 4 of the regulation states that the date that the BPTO's electronic filing system will start accepting position mark applications is still to be set and, in the meantime, position mark applications should be filed using the forms for three-dimensional marks, indicating therein that it is a position mark application.
vii Updates on the Madrid Protocol in Brazil
On 2 October 2021, it was two years since the Madrid Protocol came into force in Brazil. In October 2020, approximately 8,000 designations had been received by the BPTO. This number more than doubled in 2021, and from January to October the BPTO received 20,011 Brazilian designations.
Although the Madrid Protocol allows greater independence for foreign applicants to file trademarks, as the entire procedure can be carried out and communicated via WIPO, the BPTO does not notify to WIPO oppositions filed against Brazilian designations. This notice is made only through publication in the Brazilian Industrial Property Gazette and requires a local representative to monitor applications in Brazil.
Of note is that the multi-class system has not been implemented by the BPTO yet. Hence, at the moment, it is not possible to file trademark applications covering different classes directly at the BPTO, but it is possible to do so through an international application designating Brazil via the Madrid Protocol.
The BIPL establishes two types of patents: patents of invention and utility models.
To be patentable, an invention must satisfy the following criteria: novelty, an inventive step and capability for industrial application. An object of practical use or any part thereof is patentable as a utility model, provided that it is capable of industrial application, presents a new form or arrangement, and involves an inventive act that results in functional improvement in its use or manufacture.
An invention will meet the novelty requirement if it is not part of the state of the art. The state of the art consists of everything that became known or accessible to the public prior to the filing date of the patent application, by use or by any other means, in Brazil or abroad, with a few exceptions provided by the BIPL.
An invention is considered obvious in view of prior art when it is considered that a person skilled in the art would naturally reach the solution proposed in the invention. The basic criteria involved are:
- identifying the nature of the problem for which a solution is sought;
- analysing the solution proposed by the invention in question; and
- determining whether the solution is reached by way of a new or unexpected technical effect.
Examples of aspects to be considered include the type of problems encountered in the art, the prior art solutions to these problems, the movement of persons skilled in the art in a different direction from that taken by the inventor, the new technical effect that can be achieved by the invention and commercial success.
The disclosure of an invention will not be considered to be state of the art if it occurred during the 12 months prior to the date of filing or of priority of the patent application, if made by the inventor; by the BPTO, by means of official publication of the patent application filed without the consent of the inventor, based on information obtained from them or as a result of their actions; or by third parties, based on information obtained directly or indirectly from the inventor or as a result of their actions.
Enforcement of rights
i Possible venues for enforcement
The BIPL provides that infringement of trademark, design, patent, and geographical indication rights and acts of unfair competition constitute both a civil wrong (tort) and a crime. Hence, the injured party is entitled to rely on both civil and criminal measures to enforce their rights.
In addition, it is possible to file nullity actions against trademark, design or patent registrations or against administrative acts that annul trademark, design or patent registrations.
Border control mechanisms also feature as part of the Brazilian system of enforcement of intellectual property rights. Federal Decree No. 6759 of 5 February 2009 includes authorisation for the customs authority to seize any products that it considers to bear altered or imitated marks. Furthermore, a trademark owner who has sufficient evidence of the planned import or export of counterfeit goods may request (setting out the facts or circumstances that give rise to suspicion) the seizure of the goods by the customs authority.
ii Requirements for jurisdiction and venue
Infringement actions must be filed before state courts, as the BPTO does not participate in these proceedings, whereas the nullity actions are heard by federal courts. This is because the BPTO is automatically a party to all nullity actions, and whenever a government agency is a party to a lawsuit, the action must be filed before federal courts.
The entry level (first instance) of the Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro has four courts specialising in intellectual property. At the appeal level, the Regional Federal Court of the Second Region, with jurisdiction over the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espirito Santo, has two specialist panels for intellectual property.
As for civil proceedings, the injured party may file a lawsuit seeking the cessation of the infringing act, coupled with a claim for damages. The lawsuit may also include an ex parte preliminary injunction request, with a view to immediate cessation of the harmful conduct until a decision on the merits is rendered, subject to specific requirements of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC). In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must demonstrate a prima facie good case (i.e., that there is a likelihood of success on the merits of the case, and that delay in granting the relief sought would be likely to give rise to harm that is irreparable or very difficult to redress).
The plaintiff may also seek the imposition of a daily penalty for failure to abide by the preliminary injunction. If the interim relief sought is granted, the defendant will be restrained from practising the infringing act pending a final and definitive ruling on the substantive lawsuit. In some circumstances, a court will grant interim injunctive relief only if the petitioner posts a bond or a fiduciary guarantee to cover any losses incurred by the respondent.
A criminal action requires the filing of a criminal complaint, except in the case of a crime against armorial bearings, crests or official public distinctions, be they national, foreign or international, in which case the criminal action will be public (i.e., commenced by the public prosecution service).
In terms of criminal proceedings, one very important provision is the possibility of filing a preliminary criminal search and seizure action, aimed at gathering evidence of acts of infringement and avoiding the destruction or hiding of evidence by the infringer. Pursuing a preliminary criminal search and seizure action is normally more straightforward than undergoing the more complicated civil proceeding of early production of evidence. Given that it is possible in both civil and criminal proceedings to rely on the evidence obtained under a search and seizure warrant, an application for preliminary criminal search and seizure is frequently a useful starting point for civil infringement proceedings as well as for criminal proceedings per se.
iii Obtaining relevant evidence of infringement and discovery
The CPC states that the plaintiff may draw on all legal and morally legitimate means of proving the existence of the rights asserted. It makes specific reference to 'personal deposition' (the giving of oral evidence by the person or persons asserting the rights), the exhibition of documents or other material, witness testimony, expert evidence and court inspections.
In addition, the CPC permits the court to direct early production of evidence. A party is therefore entitled to make an application for the production of expert evidence prior to the filing of the substantive lawsuit (or, post-filing, at an early stage of the proceedings). The plaintiff must demonstrate solid reasons for the application – for example that there are reasonable grounds for fearing that, in the absence of an order for early production, the evidence in question might be lost or destroyed.
Discovery, in the form that exists in common law systems as a pretrial phase in a lawsuit, is not provided for in the Brazilian legal system.
iv Trial decision-maker
Infringement and nullity actions are heard by a single judge in the first instance. The appeal courts (second instance) consist of panels of three judges.
Experts can be appointed by the judge to assist with any technical issues involved in the case.
v Structure of the trial
Once the initial complaint is filed, the defendant is notified to present their response within 15 days. The plaintiff may respond to the defendant's answer within 10 days. There are usually two hearings at first instance: a conciliatory or preliminary hearing, in which the parties try to settle the case amicably; and an evidentiary hearing, in which the expert and the parties' technical assistants may be cross-examined as to their findings in the event of a dispute between them (the relevant questions having been filed and responded to in writing prior to the hearing – the scope of the cross-examination being issues that remain in dispute), depositions are taken from the parties and the witnesses listed are heard. This second hearing occurs only in cases where there is a need for evidence to be produced.
At the close of the hearing, the judge may immediately make a final order (final decision of the first instance) or may direct the parties to submit final briefs. In the latter case, the judge will make the final order following the submission of the briefs and after consideration.
It is possible to file an appeal against this order to a state court of appeal. The final order on appeal of the state court of appeal may be challenged, provided that certain legal requirements are met, by a further appeal, known as a 'special' appeal, to the Superior Court of Justice, or an 'extraordinary' appeal to the Federal Supreme Court.
A final decision on infringement and nullity actions might take between one and two years at first instance. A final decision on second instance might take up to two years. These time frames will vary according to the complexity of the case and the state and court in which the lawsuit is filed. Preliminary injunctions may be granted immediately, provided that the legal requirements are met.
Patent infringement can be literal or by equivalence.
According to Article 41 of the BIPL, the scope of the protection conferred by the patent shall be determined by the content of the claims and interpreted on the basis of the specifications and drawings.
Article 42 of the BIPL states that a patent confers on its title holder the right to prevent a third party from, without consent, producing, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing a product that is the object of the patent and a process or a product directly obtained by a patented process.
The title holder is further assured the right to prevent third parties from contributing to the perpetration by others of the acts described above.
In a civil infringement action, the defendant, in their reply, may assert facts that impede, modify or terminate the plaintiff's right. In addition to their reply, the defendant may also file a counterclaim against the plaintiff, if the legal prerequisites are duly met.
In relation to criminal actions, an allegation of nullity of the registration on which the action is based may be relied on as a defence. Acquittal of the defendant, however, will not automatically lead to nullity of the registration, which can be requested only in an action before the competent courts.
The most common defences to patent infringement are patent invalidity (e.g., lack of novelty or part of the state of art) and non-infringement.
With regard to non-infringement, Articles 43 and 45 of the BIPL provide exceptions to patent infringement, such as:
- private acts without commercial purpose that do not jeopardise the economic interests of the patent holder;
- acts of experimental purposes in connection with scientific and technological studies and research;
- preparation of a medicine in accordance with a medical prescription for individual cases;
- a product manufactured in accordance with a process or product patent that has been introduced onto the domestic market directly by the patent holder or with their consent;
- non-economic use of the patented product as an initial source of variation or propagation to obtain other products, in the case of patents relating to living material;
- production of data and results of tests with the purpose of obtaining the authorisation for commercialisation of the patent product after the term of the patent expires; and
- use, in good faith, of the object of the patent prior to the priority or filing date of the patent application.
viii Time to first-level decision
A final decision on infringement and nullity actions might take between one and two years at first instance. A final decision at second instance might take up to two years. These time frames will vary according to the complexity of the case and the state and court in which the lawsuit is filed. Preliminary injunctions may be granted immediately, provided that the legal requirements are met.
Civil remedies include an order for the immediate cessation of the infringing act, and damages. The lawsuit may also include an ex parte preliminary injunction request, with a view to immediate cessation of the harmful conduct until a decision on the merits is rendered, subject to specific requirements of the CPC.
In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must demonstrate a prima facie good case (i.e., that there is a likelihood of success on the merits of the case, and that delay in granting the relief sought would be likely to give rise to harm that is irreparable or very difficult to redress). The plaintiff may also seek the imposition of a daily penalty for failure to abide by the preliminary injunction.
If the interim relief sought is granted, the defendant will be restrained from practising the infringing act pending a final and definitive ruling on the substantive lawsuit. In some circumstances, a court will grant interim injunctive relief only if the petitioner posts a bond or a fiduciary guarantee to cover any losses incurred by the respondent.
In relation to the quantum of damages payable for infringement, the BIPL applies a triple criteria calculation, so damages are fixed on the basis of the criterion that is the most beneficial to the injured party, chosen from the following list: the benefit that the injured party would have obtained if the violation had not occurred; the benefit actually obtained by the author of the violation of the rights; or the remuneration that the author of the violation would have paid to the proprietor for a licence for use of the protected rights.
Criminal remedies include preliminary criminal search and seizure measures, imprisonment of the infringer and fines. The BIPL also establishes that anyone who manufactures a product that is the subject matter of a patent of invention or of a utility model patent without authorisation from the owner, or who uses a means or process that is the subject matter of a patent of invention without authorisation from the owner, shall be subject to imprisonment for a period of three months to one year or a fine.
In addition, the BIPL establishes that anyone caught exporting, selling, displaying or offering for sale, keeping in stock, concealing, or receiving to use for economic purposes a product that is manufactured, that infringes a patent of invention or a utility model patent, or that was obtained by a patented means or process is subject to imprisonment for a period of one to three months or a fine. So too is anyone caught importing a product that is the subject matter of a patent of invention or a utility model patent or was obtained by a means or process that is patented in Brazil to use for an economic purpose and that has not been placed on the foreign market directly or with the consent of the patent owner.
The same penalty applies to anyone caught supplying the component of a patented product or material or equipment with which to carry out a patented process, provided that the final application of the component, material or equipment of necessity leads to the use of the subject matter of the patent.
x Appellate review
The CPC sets out various avenues of appeal to which parties may resort. There are both appeals on the merits (substantive issue) of a case and appeals on procedural grounds or relating to questions other than the substantive issue. The possible forms of appeal include motions based on conflicting case law, motions for clarification of the ruling and appeals based on internal court rules. The final decision of the first instance court, for example, may be challenged on appeal before the state court of appeal. From the appeal court, a further appeal on issues pertaining to federal law is possible to the Superior Court of Justice or, in the event of a constitutional issue arising, to the Federal Supreme Court.
The appeal courts consist of panels of three judges. A final decision on second instance might take up to two years. This time frame will vary according to the complexity of the case and to the court and panels handling the matter. Appeals to the Superior Court of Justice or to the Federal Supreme Court are estimated to take between two and four years to be analysed and for decisions to be issued.
xi Alternatives to litigation
The BIPL does not have any provision relating to alternative dispute resolution. Arbitration proceedings are governed by the Arbitration Act. Although arbitration is not commonly used in trademark and patent infringement cases, the parties may agree to arbitration instead of resorting to the courts. Among the possible benefits of using arbitration are the comparative speed of proceedings and their confidentiality.
Trends and outlook
On 10 December 2021, the BPTO launched the second phase of its free platform to advertise and search for intellectual property assets, entitled Vitrine de PI (available at https://www.gov.br/inpi/pt-br/projetos-institucionais/inpi-negocios/vitrine-de-pi). At this stage, the platform includes trademarks, industrial designs and computer programs in addition to patents, which were included in the first phase. In the third phase, scheduled to be launched in late 2022, the platform will include specialised advertisements (such as research and development demands and financing lines) and artificial intelligence resources to coordinate supply and demand and indicate possible partners.
On 3 December 2021, the Brazilian National Council for Combating Piracy and Crimes Against Intellectual Property published Resolution No. 3, approving the Brazilian National Plan to combat piracy and smuggling and tax evasion resulting therefrom, as well as crimes against intellectual property. The Brazilian National Plan encompasses short-, medium- and long-term goals for actions focused on collaboration between institutions and organisations, prevention and protection, qualification and training of public agents, and education on the harm caused by these illegal practices.
The BPTO continues to make efforts, through its Patent Backlog Combat Plan, to reduce the number of patent applications pending technical examination. When the Patent Backlog Combat Plan was implemented in 2019, there were approximately 148,000 patent applications pending technical examination; after two years, this number has been reduced to nearly 38,000 applications. Hence, it is expected that, moving forward, the length of technical examinations in Brazil will be greatly diminished, thereby fostering innovation and new investment in technology in our country.
1 Philippe Bhering is a partner and Jiuliano Maurer is an associate at Bhering Advogados.