David Hurtado

What is the state of the art in patents in Latin America from the perspective of internationalisation?

Although it is no secret that Latin America is not always the preferred region for finding strong patents, this has changed in the last decade. In terms of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications, despite Latin America filing 0.6% of the total applications in 2020, it was the only region in which the number did not fall in comparison with 2010 (Latin American variations 0%, Oceania -0.6%, Europe 10.8% and North America 6.7%). With growth of 28%, Latin America saw the steepest rise in filings among all geographical regions in 2018, far from the 7% growth in Asia. Thus, thanks to geopolitical strategy, we can discern an exciting increase in numbers of of applications filed by patent owners and governments, showcasing the internationalisation of patent portfolios. At our firm we continue to evaluate which patent portfolios to commercialise from Argentina to Mexico, especially from universities and research labs. These portfolios are small compared to those for US universities; however, when a university files a patent at one of the world’s top patent offices, they take it seriously. In this context, with an AItool from our partner IPwe, we saw strong Latin American patents granted in the USPTO, EPO, Japan Patent Office, the China National IP Office and others. In summary, there are few patents in the region, but numbers are growing fast and with promising technologies.

What advice would you offer for patent owners from Latin America considering developing a solid IP portfolio to commercialise in developed markets?

Transform breakthrough discoveries and challenging technologies into global commercial opportunities. In addition, generating more value from the IP portfolios strengthens the strategic management of intellectual property. LicenciArte’s VICAL Report highlighted that the potential value of a top Latin American university’s patent portfolio is $500 million, with about 7,000 patent families. The value is similar to that of Washington University’s portfolio, but this contains about 1,400 patent families. LicenciArte works with its partners, especially with IP law firms PONS IP, to suggest trends in intellectual property and group patent pools for maximum global effect.

How do you use automation tools to assist clients and foster innovation within your practice?

LicenciArte supports scientific inventors in three ways: first, by identifying and evaluating the underlying invention to find the matching technology market. We track the readiness to market in technology, commercial opportunity, market opportunity and institutional maturity with our smart technology #TechBusinessMatrix LicenciArte. The tool helps us to identify current readiness to market of inventions and all possible applications to solve unmet market necessities and predict future integral levels of readiness, so as to more quickly find licensees. Second, LicenciArte generates a commercial validation for the patent owner with insights into the market when the invention is ready. Our methodology, based on social selling tools, generates crowd knowledge that reaches the decision makers of innovative companies worldwide. With that information, patent owners can improve their technology in less time and spend less than was previously the case. Finally, robust inventions with patents in developed markets can be transacted with support from the IPwe platform. Based on blockchain, this converts the patent into a non-fungible token (NFT), making transactions more accessible, faster and more transparent for both companies and patent owners.

How are developments in AI and machine learning shaping the IP landscape throughout Latin America?

The digital transformation has arrived late to Latin America. However, the pandemic has accelerated technology absorption. Those at the forefront are taking advantage of this to understand the international landscape in order to develop strong intellectual property for global markets. Once Latin American patent owners come to use digital technologies more frequently, the development time will reduce drastically. For LicenciArte, our main benefit for our clients is to make top technologies available within one click. The process uses smart technologies and contacts thousands of decision makers to generate insights from a crowd-sourced knowledge base.

What changes in client demands have you observed over the last five years, and how has this affected your practice?

Universities and research labs are the strongest patent portfolio generators in Latin America. They collect patent applications and strategically manage patents in order to commercialise them globally. We cannot say that Latin America has a technology transfer industry, but some patent owners work with ecosystem partners to transfer their technologies locally and internationally. The pandemic is revolutionising the higher education business. Some private universities are changing rapidly, finding new sources of income aside from tuition fees in order to commercialise their research results. In addition, universities are supported by consultants with transnational assistance (eg, law firms such as PONS IP Colombia, Olarte Moure Asociados, Tekcapital, and other LicenciArte allies) to promote innovative approaches in patent protection, new trends in tech transfer, and evaluation of inventions while preparing them for the new wave of post-pandemic innovation. Some of our clients such as Universidad Santiago de Cali, Universidad del Cauca, Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira, Instituto Potosino de la Investigación Científica and others, are working with us to develop patents that are validated by markets.

How would you characterise the licensing market in Latin America right now?

As I said previously, we have some experience of licensing from universities in the region. However, the data is not transparent. Some governmental reports show the licensing deals but without enough data to track trends. Moreover, Latin America does not have a strong industry based on knowledge or challenging technology to spur a technology licence market. Only in Brazil can we find universities that have signed more than 200 licence agreements, the majority with Brazilian companies.

The good news for innovative companies worldwide is that when it comes to innovation, Latin America is transforming it. Venture capital investment rose 12 times from January to June 2021, reaching a peak of $2.5 million in 42 deals in October 2021 alone. From 2018 to the time of writing, the region has seen 25 unicorns, including the acquisition of Cornershop by Uber for $1.4 billion in June 2020. In addition, the Chilean scientific venture NotCo, a plant-based milk producer, raised $235 million in the Nasdaq stock. As Carlos Moreira says: “Latin America is the Next Hot Spot For Fast-Growing Mediatech Companies… Here’s why… High growth in a less-developed ecosystem… A testbed of plugged-in early adopters… Low-risk, high-reward investment opportunity.” All these trends show how Latin America is swiftly becoming a fertile region where licence-in technologies can find the best commercial opportunities. Our role in LicenciArte, under the guidance of Luis Ignacio, is to identify the most promising areas and to explore how they are grouped, thus offering pools and securing the best deals for parties.

LicenciArte’s vision is to create the first and biggest patent pool in Latin America for global companies.

What skills and capabilities do you need to lead in the patent commercialisation space in Latin America?

LicenciArte and I have become key opinion leaders in the Latin American patent market within just two years of securing funding. This achievement has provided us with leverage for our innovative approach to solving the necessities of universities connecting with international companies, the use of intelligent technologies as opposed to the competency and the generation of Big Data with market evidence. In addition, our Latin American perspectives when it comes to creating patent pools are invaluable for companies seeking the top patents in our region. My inclusion in the IAM Strategy 300: The World’s Leading IP Strategists means that global companies can feel secure in approaching a qualified team that gathers the most valuable discoveries and converts these into attractive business.

What emerging trends and technologies are having the most significant effect on innovation throughout Latin America at present?

From our report Valuation of Scientific Inventions of Latin America 2021, we have found that digital technology has become one of the main engines of innovation in different academic and scientific fields in Latin America. It obtains positive results in the most outstanding industries in the region, such as food, cosmetics and medicine, that have incorporated these inventions. These industries’ production processes obtain results for optimised processes, productivity, improvements in the quality of products and certifiable processes. The most prominent technology applications are in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, especially in cancer vaccines, biological tests and biotechnology applications. Other emerging trends are in medical devices; earth drilling to attain oil, gas and petroleum; and digital computing or data processing equipment or methods (everything that utilises AI, Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality, robotics, blockchain, virtual reality, 3D printing, drones and machine learning).

These technological advances, their development by universities, research centres and the early absorption by companies have enabled the development of innovations that are currently being applied in agroindustry, the generation of medical devices, the development of biotechnology, vaccines, food and the use of raw materials produced locally. Our challenge is to guide the owners of said patents to global breakthroughs for their commercialisation in developed markets.

What are your top tips for building a truly international IP strategy?

We are living in an interesting era with the acceleration of digital transformation due to the pandemic, as well as opportunities presented by new digital technologies such as 5G, IoT, AI and blockchain. As new technological paradigms emerge, new IP challenges arise that are related to the efficient licensing of complex and highly fragmented technologies. There are IP implications for the interplay between classical models and new frameworks, as open source reference implementation runs in parallel with an increasing share of IP costs over the overall product cost (eg, for IoT), or the suitability of traditional protection tools for new technological paradigms.

From a geopolitical context, today technology is on the table for relevant decision makers and international organisations. Thus, we consider that intellectual property is a crucial tool for promoting a global scenario for cooperation based on new value chain models, where Latin America can play a key role. As Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research In Motion, has said: “Innovation budget without intellectual property strategy is ‘philanthropy’.”

How do you build trust and understanding with clients to ensure they make the most informed IP decisions?

The region’s patenting level has seen an exponential evolution in recent years, representing a significant challenge for the area’s countries when it comes to incorporating intellectual property into the market.

Many scientific and technological knowledge and patented inventions generators commonly achieve research results that are difficult to incorporate into production pipelines. The most common complaint is that there is no fluid dialogue between unmet market necessities that are raised by the business and the scientific curiosity of inventors within the commercialisation process.

There is also evidence of under-exploitation of the environmental biodiversity of Latin America. Helping to transform unique raw materials will allow the industry to unlock science, technology and financial resources, which in turn will enable our entrepreneurs to generate venture-backed science and to deliver products and services with added value.

The future of Latin America’s role in global production chains will involve incorporating intellectual property in the use of biological, scientific and agroindustrial resources at different levels of the production and logistics chains, and in generating better incentives for the development of innovations and scientific knowledge in the region.

I always remind clients and members of the Latin American ecosystem of the brilliant Tecnolatina’s report conclusion: “Our region [LatAm] spends US$28 billion in R&D every year and hires hundreds of thousands of researchers. [So] what would happen if we changed mindset and inspired these scientists and engineers to create startups and connect with entrepreneurs?” Innovation comes from crisis. Latin America is preparing for this new wave of innovation to support the global economy.

David Hurtado

Founder and CEO
[email protected]

David Hurtado is founder and CEO of LicenciArte, a pioneering Latin American legal tech start-up. His goal is to connect the best Latin American innovations with innovative companies worldwide faster and more cheaply than before. Mr Hurtado has a BS in biomedical engineering and an LLM in patent law from the University of Haifa (Israel). He is engaged in the Invention2Innovation Training Programme at Simon Fraser University (Canada), focusing on commercialising scientific discoveries from universities.

Get unlimited access to all IAM content