When meeting international colleagues at conferences and IP events, the conversation often centered around the Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office’s (BPTO) well documented problems with delay and backlog of applications. In patents, for example, it was quite difficult to explain people outside Brazil why the average time between filing and grant was about 10 years.
However, in recent times the discourse has become more positive. So, what has got everyone talking so positively about recent developments in the BPTO? Is the BPTO on course to align itself with leading international offices and become a modern 21st century institution?
Brazilian Government Initiatives
Over the last years, the Brazilian government has begun to focus its attention on creating a culture of innovation, and the growth of Intellectual Property and technology in the country.
This led to many new initiatives across all powers of government aiming to make the country more modern and competitive, e.g., ratifying important international treaties, defining new national strategies, regulations and legislation, public consultation processes, and changes to the courts and law enforcement areas. In short, Brazil is adapting and creating laws that deal with topics such as: data protection; the fight against cyber-crimes and the issues of the use of intellectual property on the internet.
The government initiatives also include the new Intellectual Property National Strategy (ENPI) program (“Estratégia Nacional de Propriedade Intelectual -ENPI”), with the objective of creating a balanced and effective National IP system, to promote creativity, investments in innovation and access to knowledge in Brazil.
Following the above trend, and despite the ongoing pandemic, the BPTO has been taking significant steps to modernize and aiming to align itself with leading international IP institutions. In 2018, the institution started reporting a significant increase in productivity, and a not insignificant fall in the backlog of patents, trademarks, and industrial designs.
Even with the ongoing pandemic, some of the BPTO’s new initiatives are already showing strong results. Examples of these include development and implementation of the Madrid Protocol, new steps regarding the creation of the Manual of Geographical indications, open consultation for updating examination guidelines for inventions implemented by computer program, the granting of patent examination priority to start-ups, and the recent launch of the “PI Vitrine”, a publication by the agency for announcements of industrial property assets for sale.
However, one initiative deserves specific mention. In late 2019, the BPTO officially introduced its plan to solve Brazil’s patent backlog problem, aiming to reduce the backlog by at least 80% over a period of 2 years. For this ambitious plan to work the BPTO produced ground-breaking rules to implement a preliminary standardized office action programme, and to speed up the analysis of 160,000 unexamined applications filed before December 31, 2016. The BPTO estimated that after these 2 years, the institution will be able to examine new patent applications in only 24 months.
The plan against patent backlog is now showing extremely promising results. According to a publication released on October 20, 64,900 applications were dealt with, 22,400 of which were decided and 42,500 were definitively filed. The result is even more impressive considering the disruptions caused by pandemic and the consequent suspensions of procedural deadlines between March and May 2020. These strong results can be connected to the quick adoption of home office facilities for institution’s patent examiners, whose average productivity has been reported as being 45% above target.
Is the BPTO on course to align itself as modern 21st century institution?
One thing is clear – latest news about the BPTO coming out of Brazil has gone from cautious optimism to genuine excitement. It is even more impressive to consider that the successful initiatives mentioned above were continued in combination with the institution’s activities to help combat Covid-19, which include, in addition to the actions preventing the spread of the virus (staff working from home office and suspension of the deadlines), providing information on technologies related to diagnostics and treatment, as well as giving priority to patent applications in relevant technologies.
Finally, perhaps one of the strongest success indicators to date, is the unprecedented decision by the UK Government to invest around R$20 million in the institution in order to improve the Brazilian patent system. The funds came from the Prosperity Fund – the British Government’s cooperation fund financed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
So, it seems that there is room for genuine optimism. While there is much work to be done, the BPTO now has a massive opportunity to align itself with other leading offices and indeed to become a modern 21st century institution, committed to progress, growth of Intellectual Property and Technology in Brazil.