Friday, 16 September 2011

Venezuela: a tormenting week

This week we posted two notes from Venezuela: an IP reform is on its way and Empresas Polar transferred its mark to a Canadian company (also the post mentioned some other Venezuelan trade marks and brands (the majority well-known) that have been transferred to other companies abroad). To this info I would like to add that Venezuela has taken steps to pull out from the International Centre for the Settlements of Investment Disputes (ICSID) which, as its name stands for, is a global for dispute resolution. While this latter news appears not to have relation with IP I regret to disagree. The foreseeable future seems to be frightening for IP authors and owners. Let us consider some matters that have been happening in this country, lately:

1.- In 2006 Venezuela withdrew from the Andean Community block which did have an impact on IP. For instance, the government declared that certain pharmaceuticals patents granted under the Andean Community (CAN) Decision 311, 313, and 344 were ‘illegal’ because the Industrial Property Act of 1956 ( in force) prohibits this type of patents.
2.-Venezuelan Government has expropriated 988 companies (401 this year), nationalising even international companies. Additionally, we need to have a look at the information provided by the Venezuela Central Bank which reports that the government owes more than $40 billion for properties nationalised by it (ConocoPhillips US $30billion; ExxonMobil Corp US $7billion; Crystalles International Corp Canada $3.8 billion; Cemex Mexico $1billion; Holcim Switzerland $650 million, upon others).
3.- Venezuela not only has expropriated physical properties but also IPRs such as the case of Venezuelan coffee roasting company ‘Fama de America’. The government expropriated its trade mark.
4.- Last month academics and Scientifics called for the annulment of the Law of Science and Technology claiming that if the law is implemented it could abolish the existence of any IP protection which “would hinder further innovation process that the law says it wants to promote.”
5.- This year Venezuela was placed on the priority watch list released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (special 301 Report) – the study focus on the adequacy and effectiveness of U.S. trading partners’ protection of intellectual property rights(IPRs).

I am sure there has been much more news regarding these matters but I bring today these ones. Without bias, I can see and say that national and foreign companies are pulling out of this country which means investments, inventions, technologies are leaving. For example, the fact that Venezuela is withdrawing from the ICSID gives a warning to foreign investments especially investors and holders of Venezuelan debt bonds amid fears of having to resolve disputes in unreliable domestic courts. For these reasons I await the reform that the government is so promoting but I have to be honest and say that I am not holding my breath on this one (it is I believe quite predictable – this means no good news for IP authors and owners).

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