Brazilian high court rules on mailbox patent terms

patents mailbox
Photo: Andrii Zastrozhnov/Shutterstock

‘Mailbox patents’ are unique to Brazil. Designed for chemical, pharmaceutical, or food technologies, these patents were requested by mail from January 1995 until May 1997, when a new intellectual property law came into force. Twenty-five years later, Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice ruled that the term of mailbox patents is 20 years, counting from the date of application.

The appellant in the case, an Irish university, argued that the deadlines should only begin once Brazil’s National Institute of Intellectual Property (Inpi) responds to the patent request. 

Inpi has historically struggled to analyze patent applications in ample time. In August of last year, the agency had almost 150,000 requests which had been pending for five years or more, creating a nightmarish scenario for domestic and foreign companies.

The decision will now serve as a reference for similar cases at all levels of Brazilian justice.