Mexico ranked 101 out of 190 countries for ease of registering property in the World Bank’s 2017 Doing Business report, an improvement of five places versus 2016. Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution guarantees the inviolable right to private property. Expropriation can only occur for public use and with due compensation. Mexico has four categories of land tenure: private ownership, communal tenure (ejido), publicly owned, and ineligible for sale or transfer.
Mexico prohibits foreigners from acquiring title to residential real estate in so-called “restricted zones” within 50 kilometers (approximately 30 miles) of the nation’s coast and 100 kilometers (approximately 60 miles) of the borders. In all, “restricted zones” cover roughly 40 percent of Mexico’s territory. Foreigners may acquire the effective use of residential property in “restricted zones” through the establishment of an extendable trust (fideicomiso) arranged through a Mexican financial institution. Under this trust, the foreign investor obtains all property use rights, including the right to develop, sell, and transfer the property. Real estate investors should, however, be careful in performing due diligence to ensure that there are no other claimants to the property being purchased. In some cases, fideicomiso arrangements have led to legal challenges. U.S.-issued title insurance is available in Mexico and U.S. title insurers operate here.
Additionally, U.S. lending institutions have begun issuing mortgages to U.S. citizens purchasing real estate in Mexico. The Public Register for Business and Property (Registro Publico de la Propiedad y de Comercio) maintains publically available information online regarding land ownership, liens, mortgages, restrictions, etc.
Tenants and squatters are protected under Mexican law. Property owners who encounter problems with tenants or squatters are advised to seek professional legal advice, as the legal process of eviction is complex.
Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual Property Rights in Mexico are covered by the Industrial Property Law (Ley de la Propiedad Industrial) and the Federal Copyright Law (Ley Federal del Derecho de Autor). Responsibility for the protection of IPR is spread across several government authorities. The Office of the Attorney General (PGR) oversees a specialized unit which prosecutes IPR crimes. The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), the equivalent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, administers patent and trademark registrations, and handles administrative enforcement cases of IPR infringement. The National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR) handles copyright registrations and mediates certain types of copyright disputes, while the Federal Commission for the Prevention from Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) regulates pharmaceuticals, medical devices and processed foods. The Mexican Customs Service’s mandate includes ensuring illegal goods do not cross Mexico’s borders.
The process for trademark registration in Mexico normally takes six to eight months. The registration process begins by filing an application with IMPI, which is published in the Official Gazette. IMPI first undertakes a formalities examination, followed by a substantive examination to determine if the application and supporting documentation fulfills the requirements established by law and regulation to grant the trademark registration. Once the determination is made, IMPI then publishes the registration in the Official Gazette. A trademark registration in Mexico is valid for ten years from the filing date, and is renewable for 10-year periods. Any party can challenge a trademark registration through the new opposition system, or post-grant through a cancellation proceeding. IMPI employs the following administrative procedures: nullity, expiration, opposition (new in 2016- see below), cancellation, trademark, patent and copyright (trade-based) infringement. Once IMPI issues a decision, the affected party may challenge it through an internal reconsideration process or go directly to the Specialized IP Court for a nullity trial. An aggrieved party can then file an appeal with a Federal Appeal Court based on the Specialized IP Court’s decision. In cases with an identifiable constitutional challenge, the plaintiff may file an appeal before the Supreme Court of Justice.
The USPTO has a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreement with IMPI. Under the PPH, an applicant receiving a ruling from either IMPI or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office expedite examination of the corresponding application. The PPH leverages fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. The PPH permits USPTO and IMPI to benefit from work previously done by the other office, which reduces the examination workload and improves patent quality.
IMPI published in the Official Gazette June 1, 2016 the framework for the new trademark opposition system, which went into effect on August 30, 2016. With this opposition system, rights holders have the opportunity to oppose trademark registrations pre-grant, thus reducing the number of cancellation proceedings.
After four full years in office, the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) has expended considerable time and political capital overhauling multiple industry sectors in Mexico, but has not focused on similar reforms on the intellectual property front. Legislative reform long identified by USG and others–such as granting customs effective ex-officio authority and providing the authority to seize suspected counterfeit and piratical merchandise in-transit–have been dormant, and there is reluctance on the part of the GoM to seriously address these issues sua sponte.
The Mexican government created the Digital IP Crime Unit in October 2015, and its prosecutors’ competency levels improved throughout 2016, but the Unit was effectively dismantled in December 2016 with 80 percent of its personnel reassigned or terminated. The Digital IP Crime Unit was created in part to overcome Mexico’s lack of: (1) a legal framework to address IP crimes in the digital environment; (2) expertise by law enforcement to investigate and prosecute digital crimes; (3) importance/priority placed on these types of crimes; and (4) judicial specialty and expertise to adequately address these cases. Mexico has still not implemented the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties (WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT)), even though it ratified both in 2002. Current laws do not adequately address new digital-based distribution methods such as streaming and the transfer of files via peer-to-peer networks. Industry has highlighted the failure of Mexican authorities to properly investigate these crimes and criticized the judiciary for their lack of technical expertise in these highly complex cases. Some experts note the Mexican government sees a political “cost” to combatting this type of crime while violent crimes go unsolved. Finally, the limited resources that are expended by the Government of Mexico on IP crimes are concentrated on hard goods and not online crimes. As broadband access increases, digital IP crimes will be at the forefront of IP violations.
Mexico is plagued by widespread commercial-scale infringement that results in significant losses to Mexican, U.S., and other IPR owners. There are many issues that have made it difficult to improve IPR enforcement in Mexico, including legislative loopholes; lack of coordination between federal, state, and municipal authorities; a cumbersome and lengthy judicial process; and widespread cultural acceptance of piracy and counterfeiting. In addition, the involvement of Transnational Criminal Organizations, which control the piracy and counterfeiting markets in parts of Mexico, continue to impede federal government efforts to improve IPR enforcement. Their involvement has further illustrated the link between IPR crimes and illicit trafficking of other contraband, including arms and drugs.
Mexico still relies on arrests and prosecutions of counterfeiters and pirates in flagranti, as opposed to mounting proactive investigations that seek to dismantle pirating and counterfeiting networks. Seizure of counterfeit goods is tracked by PGR, IMPI, and Customs. During 2016, Mexican Customs initiated 406 cases resulting in the seizure of 1,946,722 confiscated articles. The types of goods seized included apparel, caps, shoes, toys, video game controls, electronic devices, jewelry, watches, cell phones, cosmetics, pens, batteries, labels, USB devices, sunglasses, headphones, speakers, and shaving blades. According to data received from PGR’s Specialized IP Unit, there were 643,845 counterfeit and piratical articles seized in 2016 (significantly down from 8,969,929 seized in 2015). In that same period, PGR dismantled three (down from 65 in 2015) laboratories producing pirated movies, videogames, and music, seizing 76 disk burners. PGR commenced only 338 (down from 1,513 in 2015) preliminary investigations and made only one arrest. In 2016, IMPI conducted 4,527 inspection visits (2,867 ex officio and 1,651 ex parte) and seized 2,412,693 counterfeit and pirated goods worth USD 2,685,277. In addition, IMPI levied USD 3,191,846 in fines for IPR violations.
Mexico was listed on the Watch List in the 2016 Special 301 report. Obstacles to U.S. trade include the wide availability of pirated and counterfeit goods in both physical and virtual notorious markets. The 2016 USTR Out-Of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, listed two Mexican markets: Tepito in Mexico City; and San Juan de Dios in Guadalajara.
Mexico is a signatory to numerous international IP treaties, including the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, and the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
Resources for Rights Holders
J. Todd Reves
Intellectual Property Rights Attaché for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
U.S. Trade Center
Liverpool No. 31 Col. Juarez
C.P. 06600 Mexico City
Tel: (52) 55 5080 2189
American Chamber of Commerce Mexico
Paseo de la Reforma 295, 3er piso
Col. Cuauhtemoc, 06500 Mexico City
Tel.: (52-55) 5141-3800
National Institute of Copyright (INDAUTOR)
Puebla No. 143
Col. Roma, Del. Cuauhtemoc
06700 Mexico, D.F.
Tel: (52) 55 3601 8270
Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI)
Periferico Sur No. 3106
Piso 9, Col. Jardines del Pedregal
Mexico, D.F., C.P. 01900
Tel: (52 55) 56 24 04 01 / 04
(52 55) 53 34 07 00