Software patent debate heats up in Brazil

The body responsible for issuing patents wants Brazilian procedures to be similar to those seen in the US
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

Recent developments around concession of software patents have reignited the debate over the current technology Intellectual Property landscape in Brazil.

A public consultation on the theme, initiated by the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI, in the Portuguese acronymn) demands a review in the current procedures around registration of patents, which are currently among the most bureaucratic in the world.

The management at the Institute, which is responsible for granting the patents, has openly said that the Brazilian process is cumbersome and bureaucratic and that it wants its procedures to become more similar to those seen in the United States, where more flexible rules for those wanting to register intelectual property are in place.

Currently, the registration process for technology-related patents in Brazil takes about 12 years and there are about 40,000 requests waiting to be analyzed. The situation is worse in telecoms and electronics, mainly because the Institute lacks the specialists needed to review the tech processes - and currently there are no government plans to start a recruitment exercise to hire those skills.

INPI is now waiting for the government's decision on whether the changes that it recommends will go ahead or not. The consultation is controversial, especially due to the fact that many countries have decided to ban software patents and anything similar to the US approach is seen as a backward move.

The view of the Ministry of Science and Technology is that, among other issues, protecting segments such as computer software by patents would create problems such as hindering progress in other areas including development of internet-based products and services.

The debate around patentability of computer-implemented inventions has gained more visibility this year due to the "patent trolls" crisis in the US, where several Congress bills have been introduced to address the issue. Last month, the New Zealand government banned software patents after five years of debate.

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