Interview with IIPI Vice Chairman Jorge Amigo
Before working in intellectual property, you had various banking and marketing positions in a number of private sectors. What motivated you to make the move from banking and marketing to intellectual property policy?
In 1970, when I was in the third year of my studies in Economics I received an invitation to join a selected group of students to enter into a one-year training program with Banco de Comercio (now BBVA BANCOMER) in different departments within the Bank. After that I worked for two years in the International Division. In 1973 I was hired as Marketing Manager by Jeffrey Manufacturera Mexicana, a subsidiary of an American company that manufactures material handling equipment and specializes in engineering design. I was responsible, mainly, for developing short and long term strategic plans. In 1976 I joined my family company, an iron foundry, as General Manager, where I spent eight years.
In 1980-1981 I received a Master’s in Economics. I had one outstanding teacher in “Project Evaluation” that by that time was the Director of Economic Evaluation at the General Directorate of Foreign Investment within the Secretariat of Trade and Industrial Development of the Mexican government. In 1984 he invited me as Deputy Director of Project Evaluation, to analyze and propose authorization of foreign investment projects to the National Foreign Investment Commission. In 1986 I was designated Director of Economic Evaluation until 1989 when I was promoted as Technical Secretary of the National Foreign Investment Commission. In 1990 the President of Mexico named me as Director General of Foreign Investment.
In all those years working at the General Directorate of Foreign Investment, I had a close relationship with intellectual property (IP) issues, especially within NAFTA negotiations as I was the Head Negotiator for the Investment Chapter. In NAFTA, IP is considered as an investment; and all rules of the Investment Chapter apply to IP, such as the national treatment and most favored nation rules.
In 1993, the Secretary of Trade and Industrial Development, Dr. Jaime Serra, was authorized by the President of Mexico to name me the General Director of Technological Development, the office in charge of Industrial Property matters, with one specific goal: to create the Mexican Industrial Property Institute (IMPI) as an independent body of the Federal Government with its own patrimony.
On December 10, 1993 the President issued an Official Decree creating IMPI and designated me as its Director General, a position I held until April 2011.
Why did you decide to join the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI)?
Since 2009, IMPI has had a close relation with IIPI, developing successful programs in Mexico related to geographical indications, traditional arts and crafts and women’s empowerment.
When I left IMPI in April 2011, I talked with the Hon. Bruce Lehman and we decided that I would collaborate with IIPI. He invited me to participate in an international seminar held in Lima, Perú a couple of months ago. There, I saw the importance of IIPI´s advisory work for developing countries that, in general, don’t have a sound knowledge of IP matters.
I decided, with great pleasure, to accept Bruce’s invitation to be IIPI Vice Chairman because, after 18 years as head of IMPI, to be part of the most important international IP “think tank” next to WIPO, has no parallel.
What issues would you like to see IIPI tackle in the next five years?
After 18 years as Director General of IMPI, I am convinced that being part of IIPI´s team of experts is a challenge and there are important IP topics to study in the years to come. Some of these issues include IP on the internet, domain names, copyright law and its exceptions, biotechnology pharmaceuticals, genetic resources, traditional knowledge, geographical indications, standards, and enforcement.
What goals do you have for IIPI?
The above mentioned topics should be the issues that IIPI should tackle in the next five years. In order to do that, we have to convince international institutions such as the World Bank (WB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and the Organization of American States (OAS) of the importance of intellectual property rights as an economic tool for development, creator of welfare, creator of jobs and transfer of technology in order for them to dedicate funds for studies that can be implemented to improve IP systems worldwide.
What was your greatest accomplishment and biggest challenge while working at IMPI?
The biggest challenge for IP offices is to be efficient because it is a direct impact on investors. An office that takes years to grant a trademark or patent harms the system. If a user cannot get the information she needs on-line, it’s not good for the IP system and it’s very hard to convince inventors or creators to use IP to protect their developments.
The biggest challenge I had at IMPI was precisely the implementation of Technology Infrastructure to create data banks that are updated and can be consulted on-line, 24/7 for free. It took us several years and an important amount of investment, but finally we were able to develop and manage very efficient IP systems. Nowadays, anyone from anywhere is able to go to htp://www.impi.gob.mx and find information on patents, trademarks and even enforcement cases in minutes.
Citing high piracy and counterfeiting rates, the United States Trade Representative placed Mexico on the 2011 Special 301 Report’s Watch List. What advice can you give Mexico to improve its IPR enforcement in order to lead to its removal from the Watch List? Do you think Mexico’s recent decision to not become a signatory to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will hinder these efforts?
For many years Mexico has been on the Watch List of the Special 301 Report published by the USTR. The main concerns from the American private sector and the U.S. government are a few: fulfillment of TRIPs and NAFTA obligations in regard to WIPO´s Copyright Treaties; Pharmaceutical Patents and Generics and enforcement issues.
Mexico became part of the group of nations negotiating ACTA because the Mexican government decided that it was an important agreement. Mexico actively participated in all rounds of negotiation. Unfortunately, ACTA turned out to be a critical political issue, with strong opposition from Internet Service Providers and social networks such as Google because of one provision in the Digital Environment chapter. Mexico, as the other participants in ACTA, has until 2013 to sign ACTA and submit it to the Mexican Senate for ratification.
In my opinion, ACTA should not be an element to take into consideration for the Special 301, if Mexico can demonstrate improvements in the fulfillment of its international obligations.
Image © Andrew Jaynes 2009