Leading Innovation: An Interview with Lucía María Estrada Echevarría
Published: March 24, 2021
From providing banking, corporate, and contractual advice to joining the ranks of women leaders in intellectual property (IP) in Latin America, Lucía María Estrada Echevarría reflects on her first year of heading Uruguay’s IP Office since taking office in March 2020.
Ms. Estrada is the Technical Director of the Uruguay National Directorate of Industrial Property (DNPI), which is part of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining. The Directorate oversees the Registry of Trademarks and Patents, and handles industrial property rights applications, opposition annulments, and cancellations.
She is a member of the Uruguayan Copyright Council, which is in charge of the legal framework related to copyright and related rights, and is a corporate law professor at the University of Montevideo. Ms. Estrada came to DNPI from the corporate legal sector, specializing in commercial matters, mergers and acquisitions, and contractual issues.
What goals do you have during your term as director?
The position that I currently hold is one of great responsibility. I have a duty to protect industrial property rights, according to the current legislation, ensuring users a transparent, efficient, and friendly system.
Likewise, I understand that it is a fundamental part of my work to promote the existing tools for the effective protection of industrial property. Industrial property protection tools are incentive engines for innovators; they are true instruments for promoting competitiveness. Knowing the importance of the protection of industrial property and its consequences encourages users to make use of the system.
Another issue on the agenda is to position Uruguay internationally. To this end, we are exchanging ideas and experiences with Offices in different parts of the world, studying possible legislative changes and the convenience of adhering to different international treaties.
What is the main objective of the Office in the short and medium term?
The main objective is to ensure proper protection of industrial property to promote both national and foreign innovation in Uruguay and the transfer of technology from other countries.
To achieve this objective, I think it is important to: (i) improve the procedures so that they are as efficient and friendly as possible; (ii) shorten the backlog in procedures in the Office; (iii) modernize the current legislation; and (iv) incorporate new technologies.
Industrial property protection tools are incentive engines for innovators; they are true instruments for promoting competitiveness.
What regulatory or legislative changes regarding IP do you see coming in the near future?
Both the Trademark Law (No. 17,011) and the Patent Law (No. 17,164) are many years old and require modernization. Considering this, we are working with different public and private institutions on the Intellectual Property Network to improve the standards.
Regarding the Trademark Law, for example, we have a draft amendment that updates the standard to reflect ratification of the Singapore Treaty. Although our current regulation already allows the possibility of registering nontraditional trademarks, certain adjustments are pertinent.
On the Patent Law, the global trend is for Offices to use information and efforts undertaken by other Offices, and that is where we are aiming.
How does the Uruguayan IP Network work? What are the main challenges to promoting the IP System in Uruguay?
The Intellectual Property Network was created in 2008 with the aim of promoting intellectual property, not only from a theoretical point of view, but also with the purpose of using IP tools in order to add value to the national production of goods and services.
In 2015, the Network was placed within the scope of the National Directorate of Industrial Property by Resolution of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining.
The mission of the Network is to create an area of articulation for the awareness and dissemination of IP tools, stimulating the protection and incorporation of value of the national production of goods and services through knowledge, according to common interests of its members.
The work of the Network seeks to contribute to the construction of a globally competitive country, through the valorization of national intellectual production, via effective mechanisms of institutional articulation between the academic, scientific, and business fields.
The progress of female leadership is certainly encouraging. It denotes the changes that are taking place in society.
Currently, the Network has 38 institutions that are working in three different groups: Legislative Reform, Entrepreneurship, and Geographical Indications (GIs). In 2020, the Network organized an artificial intelligence webinar, which had the participation of national and foreign speakers.
During 2021, the Legislative Reform group will continue with the study of the regulations on trademarks, patents, and copyrights and their possible modification.
Regarding the Entrepreneurship and GIs groups, the idea is to join efforts between both to give the widest possible diffusion to the industrial property protection system focused on national producers.
The IPO of the Future report recently published by INTA includes collective input from current and former heads of IPOs from around the world, discussing what an IPO might look like in the next 10 to 20 years. How can the Report form the basis for a discussion in Uruguay and the region?
The importance of intellectual property in the economy of every country is undeniable. I consider the Report very interesting as it analyzes in detail the current situation of the IP system and also offers an overview of what the IP of the future might look like.
The Report is a very useful tool for all users of the IP system. It is important to consider the information disclosed in order to plan the future public policies of every country and to be able to anticipate the changes that are coming.
Currently, there are quite a few women who are heads of IP Offices in the region—in Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica. In light of INTA’s new The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative Report, showing gender inequalities around the world, how do you see the progress of female leadership and the inclusion of women in the administration of the IP system?
The Women’s LeadershIP Initiative Report focuses on three key areas of research: women’s representation in the workplace, women’s career advancement, and women’s work-life integration.
The progress of female leadership is certainly encouraging. It denotes the changes that are taking place in society. Currently, women fill strategic positions that historically had been held mainly by men without need of neglecting their personal life. Little by little, women are accessing the public sphere and beginning to join managerial positions, which enables greater conditions of equality within the organizations and state entities. Of course, public policies were required and it is still necessary to continue working along this line.
In any social organization, coordination of the various areas that compose it is necessary to achieve the cross-cutting objectives; thus, innovative leadership that includes women and contributes to closing the gaps is essential.
The fact that women have management positions suggests a commitment to follow international guidelines on equality and equity and enables an inclusive culture that leads to better results.
Finally, I would like to highlight that my female colleagues are prepared and trained for the positions they have, which is why they are emphasizing female empowerment and promoting more women to seek personal and professional development.
Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.
© 2021 International Trademark Association
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