Non-traditional trademarks and other amendments to the Mexican IP Law (Second Part)

This Kat summarizes in the second part of the report on the second batch of amendments to the Mexican IP Law, the highlights of the provisions thoroughly modified in relation to trademarks and administrative procedures. Read the first part here

Let’s dive into the amendments to Mexican IP Law!
Specific products and services. According to article 113 section IV, the specific products or services to be covered by the mark must be indicated in the application form. 

Co-existence agreements and letters of consent. The grounds for refusal of a trademark registration established in sections XVIII, XIX and XX of article 90 (which inter alia refer to signs confusingly similar to another in respect of which a pending application has been filed or a trademark registration in force) are not applicable to confusingly similar trademarks when the “… consent is expressed, in writing, in accordance with the Regulations of … [the] Law”. 

Collective marks. According to article 96, this type of mark can be registered by legally incorporated associations or groups of producers, manufacturers or traders of products, or services providers, in order to distinguish the products or services or their members on the market, as long as they possess common quality or characteristics and differ from the products or services of third parties. 
The application for protecting collective marks must be filed along with the regulations governing their use, which inter alia, must comprise “the manufacturing, production or packaging procedures, the penalties for breaching the regulations, and the power to exercise the legal actions of protection” of the rights of the marks, in accordance with article 97 BIS (formerly 97). Once the collective mark has been registered, the members of the association or groups that are the trademark owners may use it along with the term “Marca Colectiva Registrada” [Registered Collective Mark]. Moreover, a collective mark cannot be licensed (articles 97 and 97 BIS, respectively). 

Certification marks. Any “sign that distinguishes products and services whose quality or characteristics have been certified by their owner, such as … [t]he components of the products; … [t]he conditions under which the products have been manufactured or the services provided; … [t]he quality, processes or other characteristics of the products or services, and … [t]he geographical origin of the products”, as well as GIs, are eligible for protection as certification marks in accordance with articles 98 and 98 BIS. 
Legal persons are entitled to register certification marks, “as long as they do not do business that implies the supply of products or the provision of services of the same nature or type of those they certify”. However, if the certification mark is a Mexican GI, it can be filed only by “legal entities directly involved in the extraction, production or manufacture of the product to be protected; … [t]he chambers or associations of manufacturers or producers linked to the product to be protected; … federal government agencies or entities, and … [t]he governments of the federal entities in whose territory or geographical zone the extraction, production or manufacture of the product to be protected takes place”.
Certification mark application
number 2089308,
filed by Tequila Regulatory Council.
The application for protecting certification marks must be filed along with the regulations governing their use in accordance with the minimum requirements established in article 98 BIS-2, which inter alia comprise the technical specifications of the characteristics of the product or service to be protected, the verification procedure of such characteristics, the time frame in which the quality control on the production of the product to be protected would be carried out, and compliance with the regulations governing their use in accordance with the applicable Official Mexican Standards [NOMs] or other international regulation. 
Moreover, article 98-4 establishes that “owners will authorize the use of a certification mark to any person whose product or service complies with the requirements established in the regulations governing its use”. If so, the certification marks may be used along with the term “Marca de Certificación Registrada” [Registered Certification Mark] and cannot be licensed (article 98 BIS-3). 

Declaration of notoriety or fame. The third paragraph of former article 98 BIS-1 (now article 98 TER-1) and section II of former 98 BIS-4 (now article 98 TER-4) have been repealed. Thus, registration is no longer a prerequisite for asserting that a mark has notoriety or fame in Mexico. 

Opposition Proceedings. Articles 120 (formerly repealed) to 120 BIS-3 regulate opposition proceedings in relation to trademark registrations (which is also applicable to the registration of slogans and publication of trade names). Once the application has been filed, any person with a legal interest may file a notice of opposition within a month following its publication in the Official Gazette. 
The notice of opposition must be filed along with evidence demonstrating that the application falls under any of the grounds for refusal established in articles 4 and/or 90, as well as proof of payment of fees (around €174 per application opposed). If the notice of opposition meets the formal requirements, it is published in the Official Gazette, after which the applicant has one month for replying to the arguments and evidence submitted by the opponent. Once such a period has elapsed, the parties have two days for submitting pleadings, after which IMPI will proceed to the substantive examination of the application. 
It should be noted that opposition proceedings shall not suspend the application procedures nor “prejudge the outcome of the substantive examination carried out by … [IMPI with respect to] the application”. Thus, after the substantive examination of the application is concluded, IMPI may issue the corresponding decision.

Declaration of use of registered trademarks. According to article 128, the owner must file a declaration of real and effective use of the trademark within the three months following the third anniversary of the grant, along with the proof of payment of fees (around €46). If the owner fails to declare use, the registration will lapse (article 152 section II). 

Invalidity of trademark registrations. New grounds for the invalidity of trademark registrations are established in article 151, namely if the registration was obtained in bad faith (new section VI) and in the event that “… any other person who has had a relationship with the owner, directly or indirectly, of a trademark registered abroad, file[s] and obtain[s] the registration, of the said mark or of a confusingly similar mark in his own name without the express consent of the owner of the foreign mark”. In both cases, there is no deadline for starting invalidity proceedings when such grounds are claimed. 
Moreover, the term for starting invalidity proceedings based on previous use of a mark in Mexico or abroad has been extended from 3 years to 5 years. 

Administrative procedures
Title VI, chapter I, was modified in relation to article 183 which now establishes that IMPI will notify through the Official Gazette “all the resolutions, requirements and other office actions issued in relation to procedures of patents, registrations, and national publications, as well as those related to the maintenance of rights, except for the files provided in article 186 of … [the] Law”, which refer to pending patents, utility models and industrial designs. 

Administrative infringements
Article 213 section VII of Title VII, chapter II, provides as new administrative infringements, the use as marks of “names, signs, symbols, abbreviations or emblems referred to in … sections … XIII, XIV, … XVII and XX of article 90” of the Law. Thus, the use of identical or confusingly similar signs to a mark declared famous by IMPI now amounts to infringement. 

The second batch of amendments significantly modified Mexican IP Law, particularly regarding trademark provisions. It seems fair to say that the long-expected regulation of non-traditional trademarks, distinctiveness acquired by secondary meaning, certification marks, opposition proceedings, as well as co-existence agreements and letters of consent, have all been well received. It will be particularly interesting to see how IMPI implements the requirements of a clear and precise representation of a sign entitled to registration in relation to scents and flavors, as well as the criteria for proving secondary meaning. 

It was a common practice to submit co-existence agreements and letters of consent when replying to an office action, with the aim of overcoming the grounds for refusal contained in article 90 section XVI (now section XVIII), namely the similarity between the signs. However, such submissions were not successful in all cases, so certainly it is significant that this ground for refusal shall not be applicable when the consent is expressed in writing in accordance with the Regulations of the Mexican IP Law. It is noted that the amendments to the Regulations of the Law in this regard have not been issued. 

Another common practice, namely, the use of the class headings, or very broad description of products and/or services, will not be possible anymore, due to the amendment to article 113 section IV, which requires that the specific products or services be covered by the mark in the application form be indicated.

It is expected that the new grounds for refusal of registration, such as signs filed in bad faith (e.g. filed in a way that is contrary to best practices in commerce or in which an unfair advantage is sought in prejudice of the legitimate owner) and those related to literary or artistic works (e.g. reproduction or imitation of the elements of literary or artistic works), will strengthen the Mexican IP system. 

Since the entering into force of the second batch of amendments to the Mexican IP Law, 501 trademark applications have been filed in connection with trade dress, scents, sounds, holograms, other non-traditional marks, and certification marks between August and December 2018, according to the “List of Applications for Registration of Certification Mark, Holographic, Sound, Olfactory, Trade Dress or the Combination thereof” published on IMPI’s MARCANET database, reviewed by this Kat on 24 April 2019. 

Note that the first non-traditional trademark registrations have been already granted by IMPI in a public ceremony which took place on 7 February 2019

So, stay tuned for this Kat’s report regarding the granting of the first non-traditional trademark registrations in Mexico! 

First picture is courtesy of Arheely Garza. 
Second picture is from IMPI’s website regarding the certification mark application number 2089308, filed by Tequila Regulatory Council. 
*Stats and the bar chart are provided based on the numbers published in the “List of Applications for Registration of Certification Mark, Holographic, Sound, Olfactory, Trade Dress or the Combination thereof” available on IMPI’s MARCANET database, last review on 24 April 2019. 

Non-traditional trademarks and other amendments to the Mexican IP Law (Second Part) Non-traditional trademarks and other amendments to the Mexican IP Law (Second Part) Reviewed by Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo on Thursday, April 25, 2019 Rating: 5

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