The Technology Disputes Law Review: Colombia


In the past 20 years, Colombia has experienced fast growth, resulting in correspondingly higher living standards for its population. This rate of growth has been among the strongest in the Latin America and Caribbean region.2 However, the country still faces many challenges, including lack of widespread access to the internet, low productivity in several industries and the informal nature of the labour market.3 These, among other issues, led the country to prioritise digital transformation and implement a number of regulations to encourage innovation and productivity through technological advancement in several industries, in turn allowing the technology sector to grow significantly.4

According to the Colombian Observatory of Science and Technology, the tech industry in Colombia has a direct impact in all fields of industrial and knowledge production, services and all fields of human activity in general. The tech industry in Colombia is composed of five different dimensions: (1) the infrastructure that supports the use of services and products; (2) the manufacture and sale of information and communications technology, (3) the production of telecommunications services, (4) the digital platform industry, and (5) the research, development and innovation necessary for the industry's continuous evolution.5

Because the tech industry in Colombia has assumed an important role for the country's economy, it has prompted the development of the country in recent years and has created a strong relationship between the new technologies and economic growth.6 This can be seen mainly in the growth in the areas of telecommunications, software and tech services, which have positioned the country as an important regional nearshoring centre.7 According to the report by Colombia's software and information technology (IT) industry association, Fedesoft, on the characteristics of the software and IT industry, tech companies in Colombia operate mainly in the development of products and services for information and communications activities, finance and insurance activities, administrative and support activities, and technical, professional and science-related activities.8

The Colombian government has enacted a series of regulations to promote the development of the tech industry and allow private resources to fuel its growth, among other measures.9 Some of the laws enacted in past years include Law No. 1341 of 2009, Decree No. 1078 of 2015 and, among other emergency measures enacted because of the covid-19 pandemic, Law No. 1978 of 2019. These regulations sought to facilitate access to the digital arena and to information and communications technology, and to establish provisions for the modernisation of the industry.10

Notwithstanding this, the transition to a more digitalised society has also provided fertile ground for national and international disputes. Given the importance of the entry into the tech market of newer technologies, the interconnection of most industries with the tech industry and the presence of foreign direct investment in the industry,11 among other factors, this chapter will focus on four main areas to provide an in-depth analysis of specific sectors of the tech industry from a dispute resolution perspective. Disputes have arisen or may arise in these four areas primarily because of the legal uncertainty and the challenges they present under Colombian law; these are (1) intellectual property (IP) disputes related to technology innovations, (2) the telecommunications industry, (3) the internet services industry, and (4) the new technologies industry. While the last of these may not currently be a dispute-driven sector, it does have a lot to learn from the other three.

The IP sector is a highly regulated industry in Colombia. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, in Colombia IP protections are sought mostly in the mining and construction machinery industry and for pharmaceutical products, chemical substances, synthetic rubber, and agricultural support activities.12

Nevertheless, for the tech industry IP still plays a key role in Colombia as it protects the rights of creators of new technologies, digital content and digital platforms, in particular in light of the significant growth that the industry has seen in recent years. However, protective as the IP regime may be, it may also be hindering development and growth in the Colombian market as some technological assets, such as software, cannot be patented in Colombia and have to be protected through other means, such as copyright or as trade secrets.13 This may affect developers' decisions to enter the market. In addition, the digitalisation transformation that is taking place in the country and the entry of new technologies test the IP protection regime in Colombia as there are always newer and different technological developments being released into the market, which also poses a challenge for IP regulation.14

The telecommunications sector in Colombia has seen rapid growth in the past 30 years, mainly in the mobile services sector. Since the early 1990s, Colombia started the process of liberalisation of the telecommunications market, which allowed significant infrastructure development, especially through foreign direct investment.15

In particular, private investment in the telecommunications industry has helped bolster and expand the 4G and fibre networks, as well as enabling the progress, modernisation and implementation of new technologies in the country by helping infrastructure providers to meet the demand for connectivity.16 This is evidenced by the revenues generated by the telecommunications industry in Colombia, which by 2012 was the third-largest market in South America, with revenue of US$13.9 billion.17

As for the digital platform sector, the system development and service delivery sectors fall under its scope. It is one of the core areas of the tech industry in Colombia, given the country's aim to provide access to the internet in the entire state territory.18 This sector involves content creation, app development, over-the-top media services, IP technology and social media.19

The main asset necessary for this sector's development is access to the internet. Therefore, one of Colombia's main goals is to guarantee internet access in the entire territory. This goal was envisioned in Law No. 1341 of 2009, modified by Law No. 1978 of 2019, as a state policy, with a view to promoting content and app development, and granting access to networks and social media.20 By doing this, Colombia seeks to promote internet access and digital platform services so that more resources will be invested in this industry and knowledge will be more accessible throughout its entire territory.21

App development is an important sector of the tech industry in Colombia and the promotion and fuelling of this sector is directly related to the goal of the state to create a more efficient and productive industry.22 App development is also important, as it is connected to other industries, such as business process management, customer relationship management, e-commerce, social media, mobile applications, academic institutions and technological infrastructure, among others.23

Finally, new technologies are always posing new challenges to society, in particular to traditional regulations. Artificial intelligence, big data, fintech and blockchain technologies are new and rapidly evolving industries that pose some of the hardest challenges to states and national and transnational regulations, which cannot keep pace with the technologies' evolution.24

Year in review

In view of the developments outlined in Section I, the above-mentioned tech industry sectors have seen important developments in recent years.

An important precedent that took place in the telecommunications sector is the award issued by the arbitral tribunal in the case of América Móvil v. Colombia and the ongoing arbitration proceeding in Telefónica v. Colombia.

Both America Móvil and Telefónica signed concession agreements with Colombia in 1994 to provide mobile services for 20 years, and agreed that the assets in the concession contract had to revert to the state upon termination of the agreement.25 This included the radio spectrum and all the assets allocated to it, namely the telecommunications towers and network lines, among other things. Nevertheless, because of the constant regulatory evolution in this area, in 1998, Colombia's Congress passed Law No. 422 of 1998 limiting the reversion of assets allocated to the spectrum. However, Colombia's Constitutional Court subsequently ruled in August 2013 that Law No. 422 of 1998 did not apply retroactively, therefore the reversion of assets allocated to the radio spectrum in the América Movil and Telefonica contracts with Colombia remained as initially agreed by the parties.26 Hence, upon termination of the concession agreements, Colombia's Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MinTIC) initiated an arbitration proceeding against both companies before the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce (CCB), to have all the assets allocated to the radio spectrum revert to the state, or to receive compensation for the value of the assets.

The tribunal, constituted under the rules of the CCB, ordered both companies to compensate the state for the assets that should have reverted upon termination of the concession contracts.27 Although the companies paid the amount ordered by the tribunal, both reserved the right to initiate an investment arbitration against the state at a later date.28

Therefore, in light of the unfavourable decision by the arbitral tribunal and the Colombian Council of State's refusal to set aside the award, both America Móvil and Telefónica turned to international investment arbitration and filed separate claims against the Republic of Colombia under the Colombia–Mexico–Venezuela Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) and the Colombia–Spain Bilateral Investment Treaty, respectively. In their claims, both companies alleged that reversion of the assets allocated to the radio spectrum amounted to unlawful expropriation, in breach of the fair and equitable treatment standard provided under both international instruments.29

The tribunal in the Telefónica v. Colombia arbitration has not issued a decision on the dispute. However, the tribunal in América Móvil v. Colombia ruled that América Móvil did not have a property right that could be expropriated as the right to the assets was directly linked to the telecommunications service, and the tribunal ordered the company to pay half of Colombia's legal fees and costs.30

Another important event for the tech industry in Colombia has been the arrival of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the country. This type of cryptocurrency has gained popularity worldwide as it is a perfect example of blockchain technology and is a digital asset that promotes secure transactions of tangible and intangible assets. It has been mainly used in artistic industries, for the sale of musical products and artworks, among other things.31

The cryptoassets generated by NFT technology are different from those of other blockchain-derived cryptocurrencies, given that they represent a unique asset, are composed of unique values and are directly connected with the particular asset purchased. Thus, they also work as authentication elements and make transactions with cryptocurrencies more secure.32 However, NFT purchases do not transfer the IP rights of the artistic assets, rather they create a contract between the parties that allows the buyer to reproduce the content of the piece for personal purposes only, without receiving any type of economic revenue from it.33 The entry of cryptocurrencies into the technology industry in Colombia has prompted the government to regulate the matter and currently several discussions related to fintech law are taking place in Congress.34

Claims and remedies

The most common claims in the tech industry are those related to the constantly changing regulation in the various sectors. As stated above, two of the most significant disputes for the industry at the moment are América Móvil v. Colombia and Telefónica v. Colombia. Although the América Móvil v. Colombia tribunal has already rendered a favourable decision for the state, the decision in Telefónica v. Colombia is still pending.

In this context, of note are two high-profile disputes in the digital platforms sector. The first of these is the international investment dispute filed by NeuStar Inc against Colombia. Pursuant to Article 18 of Law No. 1341 of 2009, MinTIC signed a concession agreement with the company .CO Internet SAS for the promotion, administration, technical operation and maintenance of the national .co domain for a term of 10 years.35 In 2014, that company was purchased by NeuStar, which replaced .CO Internet SAS in the concession agreement. However, in February 2019, when NeuStar manifested its intention to renew the concession contract for another 10-year period, MinTIC refused the renewal, contending that it was seeking the best option for the administration, technical operation and maintenance of the .co domain. Then, in November 2019, the Ministry initiated a public tender for the management of the domain.36

In light of the above, NeuStar filed a claim with the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) against Colombia, under the United States–Colombia TPA. In its claim, NeuStar argued that its concession agreement provided for a second 10-year term if certain requirements were met, which, according to the company, was the case.37 Further, NeuStar claimed that by failing to renew the concession contract, the state had expropriated its investment and breached the fair and equitable treatment standard afforded to the company by virtue of the US–Colombia TPA.38 At the time of writing, no decision has been reached on the matter and the arbitration proceedings are ongoing.39

The second dispute relates to the transport services platform Uber. Ever since the app arrived in Colombia, controversy has surrounded this platform. It had never been clear whether the way transport services are provided through the app is compatible with Colombian law. Therefore, after years of debate on the matter, in December 2019, Colombia's main antitrust enforcement authority, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC – which has jurisdiction to hear cases related to unfair competition), ordered Uber to cease its ride-sharing operations in the country, given that it had engaged in unfair competition by diverting customers and providing an unregulated transport service.40 Uber appealed the decision and threatened Colombia with a treaty claim under the US–Colombia TPA.41A few months later, the Court of Appeals revoked the SIC decision, and to date no claim against the state has been registered.42

Courts and procedures

In Colombia, there are no specialist courts or judges for technology disputes. Some administrative agencies, such as the National Directorate of Copyright (DNDA), have jurisdictional powers and can resolve IP-related disputes.

Under Colombian law, precautionary measures may be requested if the requirements provided in the general rules for civil proceedings are met. The petitioner has to show that it is likely to succeed on the merits, and the court considers the necessity, effectiveness and proportionality of the requested measure. If it is deemed appropriate, the court may order a less burdensome measure.

Recent decisions have shown that interim measures can be granted in disputes in the technology sector. In the case of NeuStar's investment arbitration claim against Colombia, NeuStar's claim was accompanied by a request to the Council of State for interim measures in September 2019, in accordance with Article 10.18 of the US–Colombia TPA.43 In its submission, NeuStar requested the Council of State to (1) pause the public tender process for the duration of the arbitration proceedings; (2) suspend the administrative act opening the public tender process; (3) order MinTIC to stop all actions taken regarding the selection process of the new 'manager' of the .co domain; (4) order MinTIC to formalise the extension of the concession contract until 2030; and (5) order MinTIC to negotiate in good faith on the improvement of the returns and, consequently, study the investors' offers and submit its own offer in good faith and cooperate positively and without abusing its dominant position as a public authority.44

In October 2019, the Council of State ruled on NeuStar's request for interim measures, finding that because NeuStar had yet to submit the arbitration claim to ICSID the investor could not file such a request. Further, the Council of State also ruled that, although under Colombian law out-of-court interim measures were allowed, the out-of-court taking of evidence had to occur before the request for interim measures.45 Since the taking of evidence had not occurred before NeuStar's request for interim measures, the Council of State rejected NeuStar's request.46

Another important decision in which interim measures were ordered was a recent ruling by the DNDA involving the company IPTV Colombia Premium, which retransmitted live television without authorisation from the property right holders, while charging a monthly fee to platform users. Exercising its jurisdictional powers, the DNDA ordered the immediate suspension of IPTV Colombia Premium's live transmissions, while also directing all internet service providers in the country to prevent access by blocking the operator's internet protocol address and uniform resource locator (or web address).47 This is considered an innovative decision for the IP sector in the tech industry, as it is the first time that interim measures have been ordered against a digital platform.


Since decisions rendered concerning disputes in the technology industry are not different from other decisions rendered by national courts or arbitration tribunals, these will be enforced in the same way as any other decision. Decisions rendered by national courts may be executed through a collection proceeding in accordance with Articles 422 to 445 of the General Code of Procedure. If the decision was rendered by an arbitral tribunal in a domestic arbitration proceeding, it can be enforced the same way as a judicial ruling: through a collection proceeding.

For awards rendered by international tribunals, Article 111 of Law 1563 of 2012 provides that these must be recognised before being enforced, unless the seat of arbitration is Colombia, in which case the award will be treated as a domestic award for enforcement purposes (therefore it will not require an exequatur proceeding and can be enforced as a local judgment).

Alternative dispute resolution

The most commonly used mechanism for alternative dispute resolution is arbitration. As stated above, some of the most important technology disputes in Colombia have been resolved in domestic and international arbitration proceedings.

Outlook and conclusions

As stated above, the technology industry in Colombia is thriving and the country is positioned to be one of Latin America's tech hubs. Nonetheless, the aim to become a more digitalised society and to allow new and innovative technologies to enter the country presents its own challenges and battles. In the case of IP in the tech industry, the arrival of newer digital platforms challenges the existing IP protection regime and requires further regulation by the authorities to protect and ensure the IP rights of the holders of technological assets. Regarding the telecommunications industry, the lack of resources to create the needed infrastructure, and the accelerated growth of the industry, have led the country to promote private investment in this sector while trying to ensure that regulatory measures keep pace with developments, leading to disputes between foreign investors and the state. Something similar happened with the digital platform industry, in that the lack of appropriate and applicable regulation allowed newer, and disruptive, platforms to enter the market without any regulation, resulting in high-profile disputes. In addition, valuable technological assets belonging to Colombia and the lack of sufficient knowledge about their administration led to a multimillion-dollar claim against the state, which may greatly affect the country's gross domestic product and even the functioning of the national .co domain.

The new technologies sector, which has yet to see any significant disputes, can surely learn from the journey taken by the other sectors of the tech industry up to this point – and from the disputes that have arisen. The traditional regulatory approach to new technologies might not be enough to tackle the uncertainty that areas such as blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence are bringing to the tech market in Colombia. Therefore, the state must take further steps towards understanding how these technologies work and implementing dynamic regulations that do not become obsolete when newer versions of the technology become available.


1 Cristina Mejía is a partner and Mariana Reyes is an associate at Baker McKenzie SAS.

2 OECD Reviews of Digital Transformation: Going Digital in Colombia. Chapter 1. Colombia in the digital transformation: Opportunities and challenges. Available at:

3 ibid.

4 See Law 1341 of 2009, 'By means of which principles and concepts on the information society and the organisation of Information and Communication Technologies – ICT – are defined, the National Spectrum Agency is created and other provisions are issued'.

5 Digital Government Directorate. Sector Analysis. 2019. Republic of Colombia.

6 ibid.

7 US Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration. Colombia – Country Commercial Guide: Information and Communication Technology (ICT). 2020. Available at:

8 Digital Government Directorate. Sector Analysis. 2019. Republic of Colombia.

9 See, for example, Law No. 1978 of 2019; and Law No. 1341 of 2009.

10 See, for example, Decree 540 of 13 April 2020, 'By means of which measures are adopted to expand access to telecommunications within the framework of the State of Economic, Social and Ecological Emergency'; and Decree No. 771 of 3 June 2020, 'By means of which a measure is provided to guarantee access to connectivity services within the framework of the State of Economic, Social and Ecological Emergency throughout the national territory'; among others.

11 See Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, Observatory of the Bogotá–Cundinamarca region. Foreign Direct Investment. 2021. Available at:; BNA Americas. FDI in Colombia receives a boost from the technology sector. 2020. Available at: colombia-recibe-impulso-del-sector-tecnologico; Procolombia. Investing in technology: key to economic recovery. 2020. Available at: para-la-recuperacion-economica.

12 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP). Summary of the study on the use of intellectual property in Colombia. CDIP/20/INF/2. 2017. Available at:

13 Florez-Acero, German. Salazar, Sebastian. Duran, Mayra. Rodriguez-Florez, Juan. Sierra-Marulanda, Oscar. Intellectual property, new technologies and consumer law. Reflections from private modern law. Catholic University of Colombia. 2017. Available at:

14 Guerrero, Manuel. Global aspects of the patentability of computer-implemented inventions: current status and new perspectives, in Immaterial Property Magazine. 2007. Available at; Externado University of Colombia. Intellectual Property protection for software in Colombia: Appropriacy of the creation of a special regulation guaranteeing the rights of developers. 11 September 2016. Available at: proteccion-del-software-desde-la-propiedad-intelectual-en-colombia-conveniencia-de-la-creacion-de-una- normativa-especial-que-garantice-los-derechos-de-los-desarrolladores/.

15 OECD. The telecommunication sector in Colombia, in OECD Review of Telecommunication Policy and Regulation in Colombia. 2014. Available at:

16 US Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration. Colombia – Country Commercial Guide: Information and Communication Technology (ICT). 2020. Available at:

17 OECD. The telecommunication sector in Colombia, in OECD Review of Telecommunication Policy and Regulation in Colombia. 2014. Available at:

18 Digital Government Directorate. Sector Analysis. 2019. Republic of Colombia.

19 ibid.

20 Communications Regulation Commission. Analysis of the ICT sector in Colombia: Evolution and Challenges. 2010. Available at:

21 ibid.

22 Digital Government Directorate. Sector Analysis. 2019. Republic of Colombia.

23 ibid.

24 Buchholtz, Gabriele. Artificial Intelligence and Legal Tech: Challenges to the Rule of Law, in Regulating Artificial Intelligence, edited by Wischmeyer, Thomas and Rademacher, Timo. Springer. 2020, pp. 175–196; Yu, Shui. Big Privacy: Challenges and Opportunities of Privacy Study in the Age of Big Data, in IEEE Access, vol. 4, pp. 2751–2763. 2016; Cumming, Douglas. Johan, Sofia. Pant, Anshum. Regulation of the Crypto-Economy: Managing Risks, Challenges, and Regulatory Uncertainty. Journal of Risk and Financial Management. 2019. Available at:

25 Global Arbitration Review. Colombia gets paid but telecoms fight continues. 2017. Available at:

26 Constitutional Court of Colombia. Decision No. 555 of 2013. Reporting Magistrate: Gabriel Eduardo Mendoza Martello. 22 August 2013. Available at:

27 See Colombia Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications v. Comunicación Celular S.A., Comcel S.A. and Colombia Telecomunicaciones S.A. E.S.P. Award. 28 December 2015; Global Arbitration Review. Colombia gets paid but telecoms fight continues. 2017. Available at:

28 Global Arbitration Review. Colombia gets paid but telecoms fight continues. 2017. Available at:

29 Sanderson, Cosmo. Ballantyne, Jack. Jones, Tom. Colombia defeats telecoms and banking claims. Global Arbitration Review. 2021. Available at: banking-claims.

30 América Móvil S.A.B. de C.V. v. Republic of Colombia, ICSID Case No. ARB/AF)/16/5, Award, 7 May 2021. Available at: ARB(AF)/16/5.

31 Rojas, Mateo. NFT licences: digital intellectual property. Advertising and Marketing magazine. 4 May 2021. Available at:

32 ibid.

33 ibid.

34 See the Cryptocurrencies or Virtual Currencies Bill, 'By means of which the use of virtual currencies or cryptocurrencies and the forms of transactions with them in the territory of Colombia are regulated, and other provisions are enacted'. Available at: Criptomonedas.pdf.

35 Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MinTIC). Evolution of the .co Domain. Site visited on 17 July 2021. Available at:

36 Ballantyne, Jack. Colombia faces ICSID claim over domain name. Global Arbitration Review. 2020.

37 Ballantyne, Jack. Colombia faces ICSID claim over domain name. Global Arbitration Review. 2020; CIAR Global. Algo Más Sobre El Arbitraje NeuStar-Colombia Por El Dominio .Co (More on the NeuStar–Colombia Arbitration for the .Co Domain). 2020. Available at: sobre-el-arbitraje-neustar-colombia-por-el-dominio-co/.

38 Bejarano, Santiago. Interim relief from domestic courts in aid of ICSID arbitration. International Comparative Legal Guides (ICLG). 2020. Available at: relief-from-domestic-courts-in-aid-of-icsid-arbitration.

39 United Nations Committee for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Investment Policy Hub. Neustar Inc. v. Colombia. Site visited on 17 July 2021. Available at:

40 Colombian Superintendence of Industry and Commerce. Minutes of Hearing No. 2383, 20 December 2019. Available at:

41 Sanderson, Cosmo. Uber threatens Colombia with treaty claim over ban. Global Arbitration Review. 10 January 2020.

42 Forbes Staff. Court revokes SIC decision ordering Uber to leave Colombia. Forbes. 19 June 2020. Available at: de-colombia/.

43 Colombian Council of State, Third Section, Subsection A, Decision No. 11001-03-26-000-2019-00146-00 (64832), 30 October 2019. Reporting Councilman: Carlos Alberto Zambrano.

44 Colombian Council of State, Third Section, Subsection A, Decision No. 11001-03-26-000-2019-00146-00 (64832), 30 October 2019. Reporting Councilman: Carlos Alberto Zambrano.

45 Colombian General Code of Procedure, Article 589.

46 Colombian Council of State, Third Section, Subsection A, Decision No. 11001-03-26-000-2019-00146-00 (64832), 30 October 2019. Reporting Councilman: Carlos Alberto Zambrano.

47 Gerin, Dune. Colombia: The DNDA orders the application of interim measures against a content provider. Copyright Institute. 2021. Available at:

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