While the IP world is focusing on the consequences that Brexit is likely to have on the development of the unitary patent, a minor revolution is taking place elsewhere in the world. In Latin America, Venezuela has the reputation of being a free state, which would rather pay little or no attention to patent rights.
As they are party to major patent treaties, such as “Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property” and “Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights” (TRIPS Agreement) they are, in theory, a full partner. What is more Venezuela collaborated for a long time with other Latin American countries on Intellectual Property rights. However, this changed in 2006. Venezuela withdrew from the so-called Andean Community (CAN), which is an agreement with Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. That was a sign of things to come.
The Venezuelan patent and trademark office (SAPI) very recently announced the renewal fees for Venezuelan patents. The first renewal fee starts with the incredibly high amount of US$ 3,000 (around € 2,800). A further US$ 3,000 a year will come on top of this. For the sake of comparison: in the Netherlands no renewal fee is payable in the first three years. You pay € 40 in the fourth year and € 100 in the fifth year.
As a result of these fees, the costs of patenting a successful product can soon mount up to the astronomical sum of US$ 610,000 (€ 572,000), with a renewal fee of US$ 60,000 (€ 56,500) for the final year. These amounts are so high that you should seriously ask yourself whether you are ever going to earn this back.
Cat out of the bag
The amounts are not intended to cover the ongoing costs of the SAPI. Neither are they going to be an interesting source of income for Venezuela because of the anticipated limited amount of interest in patents.
The government clearly wants to make a point. In other words, amounts like this make the patent system so unappealing that it effectively stops working.
By undermining the patent system Venezuela is keeping the possibility open for local companies to copy inventions of others without the risk of infringement. It therefore looks as though the Venezuelan government is indeed using Intellectual Property for the purpose of geopolitics...