Spain’s legislation is the appropriate one for fighting counterfeiters, the Criminal Code is adequate and so is the prosecution’s work. The only thing missing is teaching people and generating awareness. This according to José Antonio Gil Celedonio, Director of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, who explained to Brands+ that “the problem of IP infringement in the country can be fixed, in part, if there is no demand; demand cancels the offering.”
What’s your outlook on the current situation of industrial property protection in Spain?
As director of the National Office on industrial property in Spain, we believe that it is very important to analyze the state of industrial property in the country and the state of IP rights overall. Given the momentum of the service industry in Spain, accounting for up to 75% of our economy, intellectual property rights, more specifically patent, trademark and design rights are very relevant in the economy. There is an increasingly innovative climate formed by both public research centers and universities or companies that are increasingly using industrial property systems, but we must also be aware that there are challenges, today more than never, with counterfeiting across the internet, especially aspects related to the illegal sale of counterfeit products that represent risks to the health of consumers, which also entail significant fraud to public coffers.
How does the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office work with Latin American authorities?
As an office, we have a long tradition of cooperation with Latin American partners; usually with the national industrial property offices in Latin American countries. There are many countries where very good initiatives are taking place. In Uruguay, there is an approach towards a more open innovation model, in which industrial property rights have an increasing weight in the economy. I think this a very interesting way of modernizing the national economy and I think that it’s being carried out by the National Directorate of Industrial Property and the Ministry of Industry. We also have interesting cases like Indecopi in Peru, which is doing many activities for the promotion of industrial and intellectual property, for the country’s less developed populations, helping them develop economically. Another highlight is the actions of national offices such as Argentina, Brazil or Mexico to try to speed up their procedures and therefore respond better and faster to the needs of users.
We have to remember that there are both national and international users since there are also companies of all kinds, American, Spanish, Japanese that need to protect their products and protect their brands in those countries.
And how do you do it locally and in Europe?
We, as the National Industrial Property Office, have a series of specific functions established by the legislation on the fight against counterfeiting. We have to take into account, first of all, that the fight against counterfeiting, as well as the fight against any crime, is carried out primarily by police forces and also with the judicial guarantee that there will be actions on the matter. However, we try, first of all, to collaborate with these other agents but also with the private sector, so that they know how to better identify trademark forgeries, violation of patent rights, etc.
In addition, we have an institutional mechanism that is the Intersectoral Commission, that acts against activities that violate industrial property rights, which brings together many ministries depending on the sector in order to draw up complete strategies. We believe that in that the current legislation is the right one to fight counterfeiting, the Criminal Code is adequate, the criminal prosecution law is adequate, what is missing is public awareness; the issue of the violation of intellectual property rights in the country is partially resolved if there is no demand, demand will cancel the offering.
What relevant figures can you highlight about the registration of patents and trademarks in Spain?
In 2018, the office processed approximately 86,000 applications for all types of industrial property rights, obviously the most relevant are trademark and commercial name rights. Of those 86,000, about 63,000 were national trademark applications or applications for national trademark names, while the rest were requests for designs, which we know as industrial design in the Spanish legal regime.
These numbers are a bit misleading because the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, like the rest of the European offices, has two industrial property systems living together; the national system and the European system, therefore to these 85,000 must be added to the work hat the office does to validate European patents, the designation of international trademarks and the advisory work that the office does for those Spanish applicants who also want to adapt to the Madrid system and extend their brands to other countries that also make use of the international system. If all the figures are added, we find more than 150,000 annual operations, more than 85,000 in the country.