IP education is a high priority in Paraguay. The INTA Bulletin
caught up with Supreme Court Justice Bareiro de Módica to discuss training judges, how the court’s IP expertise is evolving, and what developments she would like to see next.
The Paraguayan Supreme Court has a unit for IP matters. Can you explain what led you to create this special department and what its duties and powers are?
Before being appointed as Justice of the Supreme Court, I practiced as an IP attorney for a long time. During that period I noticed that, although local IP acts comply with a suite of international treaties related to trademarks, patents, industrial designs, geographical indications, trade secrets, copyright, and unfair competition, Paraguayan judges were not familiar with this field. This lack of knowledge was reflected in their decisions.
For that reason and given the importance of protecting IP, after taking up my role as a Justice of the Supreme Court I thought it was necessary to create and support this unit to give the judges the legal tools to resolve IP conflicts before civil and criminal courts. In 2011, I proposed the project to the plenary of the Supreme Court. It was approved without objections, and in 2012, the unit for IP matters officially entered into force. I was nominated as the person responsible for this unit, and a Director and specialized technicians were immediately appointed in order to fulfill its remit.
The main powers and duties of the unit are to:
- Train judges, assistants, and judicial officials on IP issues;
- Organize and sponsor conferences, seminars, and workshops;
- Take part in formulating policies to improve IP enforcement, in coordination with other specialist institutions;
- Produce accurate statistics related to IP rights; and
- Propose and support meetings with specialized government agencies on IP rights issues.
In 2016, the plenary of the Supreme Court attributed to the unit a very important role, enabling it to issue nonbinding opinions on IP issues at the request of courts and administrative offices.
How do you train judges and court officials?
Each year we prepare a calendar of activities in advance, taking into account the areas that require the most attention. The calendar includes courses and other activities that allow judges to keep up to date. In principle, we conduct courses run by our own experts, but lately, we have also involved international associations such as INTA and ASIPI, among others.
I would like to highlight that since 2012, we have carried out several activities throughout the country and that we have trained around 5,000 judges and officials.
We encourage the use of alternative methods of dispute resolution, particularly mediation. In fact, this year we organized the first national course in mediation on IP rights for postgraduates.
Have you noticed any changes in the court’s decisions since the creation of the IP unit?
For training courses, it is unlikely that there will be any impact in the short term, but perhaps there will be in the medium term.
We expect the greatest impact to be on legal opinions. Although they are not mandatory, they can have a profound impact and exert influence in the short term, given that they can be requested by any judge in the country.
What developments are you hoping to see in Paraguay to further improve the environment for IP owners?
It is very valuable to have expert and qualified judges in the field, but we want also to include them in our training. Organized jointly with INTA, a workshop for judges took place recently in Paraguay and the lectures actually involved some judges with experience in the field.
The most effective form of protection is action aimed at increasing the public´s awareness of the consequences of violating IP rights. It is important that judges have a clear vision of the regulations and procedures in order to impose appropriate penalties. For this reason, once we have obtained the necessary resources, we intend to carry out more intensive, updated, and integrated training sessions and seminars with national and foreign academics.
We will also continue to promote the use of alternative methods of dispute resolution, given that it is one of the strategic, thematic focuses proposed by the Supreme Court. We are working closely with judges and prosecutors specialized in IP rights to apply the Supreme Court resolution that regulates mediation in the criminal field. Mediation is an effective way to resolve intellectual property disputes. Unfortunately, it is not widely practiced in Paraguay, although there is already a dispute resolution mechanism before the mediation agency and it is the most appropriate method for small infractions.
Finally, it is extremely important for us to develop a solid body of precedents in the area of IP in order to ensure that the IP system can promote investment and economic growth.
How can INTA offer support?
In my opinion, INTA plays an important role in the development of trademark protection policies throughout the world. By the way, when I was a member of INTA, I worked on several interesting projects that involved active participation in committees. I know the great job INTA does defending trademark rights. For my country it would be very important to have the support of this association though courses, seminars, and workshops. In addition, it would be ideal for our judges to be able to participate in INTA activities.
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