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June 1, 2014

The building blocks of change

The past couple of years have seen some major developments in how Brazilian courts interpret and enforce trademark law at all levels. This article reviews some of the latest changes related to protection for non-traditional trademarks, the special rule for determining jurisdiction in trademark infringement cases and the administrative seizure of counterfeits by Customs.

The 1996 Brazilian Industrial Property Act (9,279/96) establishes a mixed trademark protection system by which an attributive arrangement grants first-to-file protection rights along with some declaratory system exceptions, such as *bona fide* six-month prior use of an unregistered trademark. Despite general satisfaction with this system, it is a fact that the law admits only the registration of visual-perceptive signs as trademarks (Section 122).

However, this limitation does not mean that non-visual signs which function as trademarks are bereft of protection. The Industrial Property Act sets out a so-called ‘general clause’ of unfair competition (Section 195, item III), which incorporates Article 10*bis*(3)1º of the Paris Convention and prevents any act likely to cause consumer confusion. Such protection – especially when it involves unregistered signs – depends on the evidence submitted by the rights holder, which must show that:

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