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Is Brazil The Next Big Draw in Patents?

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As all eyes turn to Brazil in anticipation of both the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, recent figures show a dramatic spike in patent filings in Brazil.

Brazil is one of the four so-called “BRIC” countries regarded as an emerging global economic super power, alongside Russia, India and China. However, while filing patents in China is now a common practice for UK companies, which filed about 2,000 applications there in 2011, Brazil currently lags behind. However that could be about to change.

Brazil has now surged above the UK as a place to file patent applications. According to the latest figures released by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), in 2011 there were 22,686 patent applications filed in Brazil, putting it 11th in the global table for filing jurisdictions, one spot above the UK, which received 22,259 applications in the same year. The vast majority of these Brazilian applications, some 19,981, were filed by foreign applicants.

To put these figures in context, in 2011 there were only 40,022 granted in force patents in Brazil, which compares to just under 600,000 in the UK (including European patents), and just over 2 million in the US. If patent filings in Brazil are now roughly on a par with those filed at the UK IPO, then the number of granted Brazilian patents is set to increase dramatically over the next few years.

One reason why Brazil is of interest is its sheer size, and its dominant position in South America. If you have a patent in Brazil then you have a large part of the continent covered, and few will be active in South America as a whole without being active there. It is a bit like having patents in the UK, France and Germany, and this being sufficient to prevent rivals being active in Europe as a whole.

However,  it can take more than five or six years for a patent application to be examined in Brazil, and enforcement of granted patents may not be easy.

The extent to which barriers to a smooth running patent system remain is a determining factor in whether a jurisdiction becomes a popular place to obtain patents, and as a knock-on effect, whether that jurisdiction starts to prosper or not. However, places like China, Korea and India have broken down many of these barriers in recent years, and are now very popular places to file patents. They are no more expensive than anywhere else, and access to fair and reasonably effective enforcement is available. If Brazil addresses some of these issues it could soon join those places as a jurisdiction worth having a patent in.

Although patent filings in Brazil are increasing, they are still dwarfed by the numbers filed at the most popular jurisdictions, which were China with 526,000, the US with 503,000 and Japan with 342,000.

In terms of the activity of Brazilian patent applicants themselves, it ranks a lowly 27th in the world league table for patent filings globally. This suggests that Brazil is not emerging particularly quickly as an innovative force of its own. The top five in this list are Japan, China, US, Korea, Germany. The UK is seventh, behind France. So even though the UK is not a particularly popular place to file patent applications, UK applicants are very active on the global scale. Brazil ranks behind countries like Poland, Turkey, Israel and Singapore.

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