An extract from The Intellectual Property Review, 9th Edition
Enforcement of rightsi 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 in order to enforce its 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 IP 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 such 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 such 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 the 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 only grant interim injunctive relief 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, save in the case of the 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 to rely both in civil and criminal proceedings on the evidence obtained under 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 or 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 may 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 his or her 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 that the parties submit final briefs. In the latter case, the judge will make the final order following the submission of the briefs and its 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 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 may take between one and two years at first instance. A final decision on second instance may 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 the legal requirements are met.vi Infringement
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 his or her 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.vii Defences
In a civil infringement action, the defendant in its reply may assert facts that impede, modify or terminate the plaintiff's right. In addition to its 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 upon as a defence. Acquittal of the defendant, however, will not automatically lead to nullity of the registration, which can only be requested 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 his or her 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 related 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.
A final decision on infringement and nullity actions may take between one and two years at first instance. A final decision at second instance may 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 the legal requirements are met.ix Remedies
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 only grant interim injunctive relief 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 that 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 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.
Additionally, 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 infringing a patent of invention or an utility model patent, or that is obtained by a patented means or process; or caught importing a product that is the subject matter of a patent of invention or a utility model patent, or obtained by a means or process that is patented in Brazil, to use for an economic purpose, which has neither been placed on the foreign market directly nor with the consent of the patent owner, is subject to imprisonment for a period of one to three months, or a fine.
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 is possible on issues pertaining to federal law, 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 may 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 have decisions issued.xi Alternatives to litigation
The BIPL does not have any provision related to ADR. Arbitration proceedings are governed by the Arbitration Law. 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.