Brazilian IP with a German accent
Our November interview is with attorney Gert Egon Dannemann. He speaks of Brazil, Germany, music, wines and, of course, reports how he participated in the history of Intellectual Property in Brazil and worldwide.
Rumor has it that writer Oscar Wilde is responsible for the maxim that ‘life is too short to learn German’. Lawyer Gert Egon Dannemann respectfully disagrees. He has spoken Goethe’s language since childhood. In fact, despite the Germanic name, by ancestry, Gert is a native Carioca. Recently retired, he wrote his professional history between Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, and Germany, where his children live.
Founder of ABPI along with other partners, Gert Dannemann is a natural member of the entity and keeps alive in memory much of the history of Intellectual Property in Brazil. He was president of ABPI, of LES-Brasil, of the Brazil-Germany Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Rio de Janeiro and, until August of this year, held the position of Executive Director of IDS – Dannemann Siemsen Institute for Legal and Technical Studies, a non-profit association, which aims, in essence, to disseminate in Brazil and abroad, the rights of intellectual, environmental, consumer and labor relations.
At the age of 82, Gert is no longer devoted to intellectual property but has never neglected the healthy exercise of intellect. He promotes music soirées, takes courses at Casa do Saber (RJ) and, on special occasions, with some medical vigilance, tastes good wines from different origins. In this interview at his home in Ipanema, he told a bit of his story, talking about Brazil, Germany, music, wines and, of course, intellectual property. Note: the name is Gert, but he also goes by the name of Geraldo.
In the late nineteenth century, Germany was a pioneer country in associations that took care of Intellectual Property rights. Together with the French, they formed the AIPPI (Association Internationale pour la Protection de la Propriété Intellectuelle). Then came the Americans and the English. AIPPI was an opportunity to get in touch with IP professionals from all over the world and to be up to date with the current discussions on the subject. My father was the first Brazilian to attend AIPPI congresses, since the first war.
Although Brazil was a signatory to international agreements, such as the Paris Convention, there was no culture of intellectual property in the country. Few people were dedicated to this theme. Only from the 1950s onwards things took shape, as Brazil evolved and began participating in these international meetings.
German since childhood
My history with Intellectual Property began in 1954. At the time I was finishing high school, and my father, Eduardo Dannemann, asked if I wanted to peek into his office, and I agreed. This was before the merger of the office with Luiz de Ipanema Moreira’s, in 1958. I went to work as my father’s deputy with the then National Department of Industrial Property, DNPI, a department linked to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which is competent to grant, among others, patents and trademark registrations. In 1961 I concluded my Law degree at the former National Law School of the University of Brazil. As I spoke German since I was a child, I went to an internship in the office of a colleague of my father’s in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1964. I returned to Brazil in that same year after the internship.
ABPI at AIPPI
Since the early 1950s, the idea of forming a Brazilian Industrial Property Association was already being discussed in Brazil. Luiz Leonardos represented us at the AIPPI Congress in Salzburg, Austria, and turned us into a national group of that entity. ABPI was created in 1963 by a group that brought together Mauricio Vilela, the first president, Guilherme Vidal Leite Ribeiro, Peter Dirk Siemsen, Paulo Carlos de Oliveira, Thomas Othon Leonardos, Carlos Henrique Fróes, Luiz Leonardos, Catharina Bigler, Luiz de Ipanema Moreira , Julio Mello, Guilherme Gnocci, José Scheinkman and me.
With the 1964 revolution, things got tough for Industrial Property and ABPI. The first president of the BPTO, Thomas Thedim Lobo, closed the doors to our association, which was then ostracized. The military had a xenophobic vision, as it also happened in the computer sector. They thought we wanted to hand Brazil over to foreign capital. They did not understand that what we wanted to do was to reveal and convince the local business community about the importance of a patent system in order to make it competitive with its foreign-based competitors.
The association only resumed its activities in the late ‘70s, after Arthur Carlos Bandeira assumed the presidency of the BPTO. He realized the importance of Intellectual Property for the development of our industry, commerce and economy, and began to dialogue with us. It was from there that we began to develop as a national association, bringing to Brazilian entrepreneurs the knowledge of legislation that protected their inventions and brands.
The first ABPI seminar took place in Rio de Janeiro. Then we held it in Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Recife, Blumenau, Curitiba, Ribeirão Preto, Sao Bernardo do Campo and Contagem. And within these seminars, we discussed international subjects that were brought to AIPPI, which continues to the present day.
The Industrial Property Law
When we started discussing a new Industrial Property legislation for Brazil (Law 9.279/96), Luiz Leonardos was the president of ABPI and I was the reporter general. The mission was to bring our experience and knowledge on the subject to the parliamentary members of the commission for this purpose, including, among them, João Agripino, Marco Maciel, Sandra Cavalcanti, Ney Lopes, Jose Aleluia, Nelson Jobim, Roberto Campos, and many others. Then, as ABPI’s president, I attended numerous meetings in the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate to address the issue. I traveled to Brasilia a lot to attend these meetings with parliamentarians in the company of Chico Teixeira, who at the time was representative of the pharmaceutical industry. Many of the most important things in the law today have been proposed by us, such as compulsory licensing and the protection of biotechnology. It was exciting to participate in that historic moment.
The Brazilian Industrial Property Law is very good but will need adjustments due to new technologies, artificial intelligence, and the digital economy. These topics are being debated worldwide by AIPPI.
Today Brazil is an extremely important actor in the subject of Intellectual Property and has made great progress in this area. There are amazing cases, such as Unicamp and Fiocruz, who develop research. And we have Embrapa and Embraer, which competes with major international companies, such as Boeing.
However, there is still some lack of knowledge about the benefits of Industrial Property for Brazilian development. Take the case of ABAPI (Association of Industrial Property Agents), which is struggling with the recognition of the profession. The fact is that there is still rancidity against Industrial Property in the country.
The point is that governments have not awakened to the importance of Industrial Property for the productive system and for Brazilian development. Brazil does not value industrial research, as in other countries, such as Germany and the United States. And here we have great researchers who are not convinced of the need and importance of protecting their patents and inventions. Those who have access to information and awareness on this subject are based in the Southeast, in states such as Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina, Paraná, and Rio Grande do Sul. But unfortunately, this awareness is not the same in the rest of the country. It is another Brazil.
It is from the research and the interaction between universities and companies that the development is promoted. Look at China, which started copying and now exports worldwide.
First Retirement: IDS
In 2000 I decided to retire and resign the partnership at the office. I wanted more freedom to visit my children and grandchildren, who live abroad. I talked to Peter (Siemsen), the senior partner, he agreed and we got everything right. At the same time, I had a health problem and underwent surgery. When I recovered, Peter considered that I was too young for retirement and proposed that I set up a study institute to spread intellectual property in business environments. And for that, to take advantage of my experience and knowledge on the subject, including that acquired abroad. It was then that in July 2001 we formed the Dannemann Siemsen Institute (IDS), of which, until I retired definitively, I was the CEO.
The IDS then promoted events, debates, studies and exchanges with other countries on Intellectual Property. We publish books on various topics, such as technology transfer, patents, and the entire Intellectual Property system. We brought professionals from abroad to lecture in Brazil.
For a liberal ideology
Brazil needs to adopt a liberal ideology and let the business community run its business with economic freedom. But today I do not see a leadership capable of implementing such a policy in the country. The military man is well educated, but when he enters politics, he is left to be influenced by other ways and then becomes a mess.
Second retirement: music, wine, and knowledge
Today, even due to health limitations, I am no longer following these Intellectual Property issues. The IDS is under the care of Gustavo Piva de Andrade, in very good hands.
So I’ve been dedicating myself more to music, helping to promote soirées in the German Society, of which I am a counselor. I also spend my time taking courses at the Casa do Saber, on International Relations, rudiments on economics, national and international politics, mediation and arbitration. And recently I took a wine course, which I like a lot. I have always been involved in this matter on behalf of an entity from the German Ministry of Agriculture (Deutscher Weinfonds), which is responsible for protecting its geographical indications.
The diversity of wine is huge. German wines are excellent. There are wonderful grape varieties in Germany and not so well known here, such as riesling, silvaner, and ruländer. Wines produced from these noble grape varieties can be found, for example, in the Rhine and Moselle river valleys, in Franconia, and in the Palatinate and the Kaiserstuhl (Emperor’s Throne).