Spotlight on Intellectual Property in South America
Intellectual property (IP) is a constant presence in many industries across the globe. CropLife International’s partners in South America are working hard to make sure that people are educated and well versed on IP and the many ways in which it serves us in our every day lives.
Check out below some infographics from ArgenBio, the Argentinian biotech association, discussing IP and the innovations around it.
Additionally, hear from three Brazilian innovators about their thoughts and experiences with IP —André Hermann, former Cornell Alliance for Science Fellow and former researcher at LOTAN Agrosciences; Danilo Zampronio, a founder of LOTAN Agrosciences and current IP consultant; and Pedro Medeiros, former Innovation Researcher at Oxiteno. Check out their thoughts below on the ways that balanced IP is helping to encourage innovation.
How does IP help foster innovation and new ideas?
André Hermann (AH): It’s an asset for showing investors, it’s a good kind of tracking that people want to know, how a company is developing and registering new products. Brazil doesn’t have a big history of inventors who have used IP in the past, many big inventors here didn’t register anything. Registering creates value, and now we are seeing more records of registering.
Danilo Zampronio (DZ): IP is much more to protect a product or a way to validate an investment. If used correctly, IP can be a source of information. Through an IP source you can identify existing solutions, partners, competitors and so on. You can use IP information to direct research. I think it’s very undervalued in Brazil nowadays, not just as a protection mechanism but as a source of information.
If we are talking abouts startups like LOTAN which are biotech startups, what usually happens is that these companies invest in ideas and refining them, so they need IP to share those ideas in a protected environment. That’s what you get when you submit a patent. Working with IP is very strategic for tech companies, especially biotech companies.
What did you do with LOTAN and how IP was involved? What was the connection between IP and patents, and the work you did but also how it affected your business?
DZ: Since the beginning we knew that IP would be a determining factor for us. We were lucky to have an investor that believed in our team. IP became increasingly more important, especially as we started talking to other companies and when we started submitting grants, because we had to publish our results. To publish those results, we had to have a patent to protect us and guarantee that we were the inventors and owners of that tech. So, it wasn’t just there to protect us, it helped us have a better position in negotiating co-development of products. It was important for us as a bargain factor as well. While we were writing out patents we were looking at all the technologies that existed at the time, and it was really helpful to understand where we were, who were the players we were up against, and who we could collaborate with.
AH: I worked a lot searching for patents, competitors and partnerships. And we saw a lot of other companies that had assets on technologies we were working with. And we saw the trends and similarities, and the struggles people had with RNA interference, how to scale up production, how to make formulations. Sometimes when you are working only in the lab, you can’t get this kind of feel. But when we look into the patents of bigger companies, they have researched similar topics and they were in further stages of development. So, we could look ahead and see what would be next for us.
Pedro Medeiros (PM): My work with IP is more day by day. My main job with patents is seeing what competitors were doing, what we could do, and how we could navigate through the maze of IP in order to establish a position. Especially for a Brazilian company that would bring their solutions to the international level, this is kind of mandatory. We have a fun word for the main idiosyncrasies of the Brazilian system – jabuticaba – a Brazilian fruit you can only find in Brazil. We have our jabuticabas in our IP system and while I have to navigate with that, I have to navigate on the international level which is more structured.
What are some obstacles that developers encounter in the IP space in Brazil? And what can make the system better?
PM: Our main problem regarding IP on this level is bureaucracy and time. We have some partial solutions. For specific topics we have fast-tracks.
DZ: We lack education regarding IP in general, like how to submit a patent or new plant variety. Even in academia. I think there’s a component of education, and also a legal component to be taken into consideration.
AH: There are pretty good examples of organizations that are using IP as a form to bring innovation to different players, small farmers as well.
How do IP protections incentivize start-ups like LOTAN Agrosciences and how does that create value for local communities in Brazil?
PM: It takes a lot of effort to bring something to the market. An IP is an achievement. IP in a company’s portfolio can help attract investors.
DZ: IP can be much more than just an asset for economic exploration of a technology. It can also work as a way to ensure investment security. Investors will be sure that their money will return.