Pere Augé, president of the Comission of Foreign Affairs of Association of businessmen of Andorra (Confederació Empresarial Andorrana, CEA) speaks to All Andorra on “cons and pros” of intellectual property business development in Andorra:
“The Principality of Andorra is often referred to as a neutral country surrounded by nature, located in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, with one of the highest life expectancy in the world and a very low criminality rate.
It is no surprise that Andorra has quickly become an attractive place for businesses and individuals.
One of the recent developments that has arisen in the wake of the Law on foreign investment of 2012 is the new legal framework regarding Andorran patents.
The significant relevance of the Andorran patent, seen as a new legal tool available to rightholders around the world, stems in particular from the broad Andorran market : although Andorra has around 80.000 inhabitants, there are more than 8 million visitors per year, mainly French and Spanish, due to its ideal location in the South of Europe.
In view of these figures, there now is a real incentive for companies and inventors to protect their inventions in the Principality.
An Andorran patent confers a monopoly of 20 years to its rightholder and is an efficient tool, in particular:
• within a defense strategy to prevent potential infringement (e.g. a machine that is patented in France and Spain could be lawfully imported and sold in Andorra at an attractive price due to a 4,5% VAT), or
• for valorizing a broader intellectual property portfolio (2% tax on worldwide IP royalties).
Andorra is party to the Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property (1883) but it has not yet signed the European patent convention (EPC) or the Patent cooperation treaty (PCT) so, for the time being, the filing of a national patent must be done directly with the Andorran trademark and patent office.
Obtaining an Andorran patent is rather straight forward and flexible as :
• the patent application can be filed in Catalan, English, French or Spanish ;
• there is a merely formal prosecution of the patent application (the latter can only be denied/rejected in case of manifest lack of novelty) ;
• the filing costs and annuities/maintenance fees are very low in comparison with other countries.
These are undisputably important practical aspects when deciding where to protect an invention.
Once the andorran patent is granted, the rightholder has an array of options to assert its rights : launching a lawsuit at the Andorran courts, implementing border seizures (preventing the entrance of infringing goods both at the French and Spanish borders), resorting to arbitration and/or mediation and so forth.
The Andorran patent registry is public and all contracts involving andorran patents can be recorded.
On a practical level, the first signs of interest in the andorran patent have come from a well known Swiss watchmaker, which has recently been granted the very first andorran patent.
There is no question that the first applicants of andorran patents will have a competitive advantage notably in view of the various international and well known franchises that have chosen to establish a place of business in the principality of Andorra.
The diversification of the Andorran economy, and the openness of the country to foreign investment, must not hide the strength of local entities that will find benefits in protecting their inventions, in particular in the area of health (e.g innovative hospital centers) and new technologies (e.g the various tech & comms innovations implemented in the forthcoming buiding The Cloud).
A door is open to rightholders, in particular those that operate in dynamic industries such as the biomedical, telecom and automotive industries.