Neuro-Rights

Pablo Dent y Rafael Serrano, asociados de CorralRosales, de Ecuador, y un edificio de cristal

With the development of Neuroscience in recent years, human beings can influence their own nervous system, especially the brain.[1] Neuroscience, the branch of science dedicated to the study of the nervous system, has developed a range of technology known as neurotechnology. Neurotechnology consists of all tools and processes used to understand the functioning of the brain, as well as control or repair its functions.[2] The development of this disruptive technology has opened doors to a subject that has been rather overlooked within legal spheres related to the possible effects that this technology could have on the rights of individuals.

The development of neurotechnology could pose major risks to the rights of individuals, namely privacy, free will, health, and personal data. Within this context, countries like Chile have determined the need to debate possible regulations that would limit the impact of neurotechnology, establishing ethical principles for its use and creating new rights. This constitutes the first steps toward the creation of neuro-rights, which are based on traditionally recognized rights, coupled with their impact on the neurological field.

This article aims to describe the bases and guidelines to, in the future, develop legal regulations on the subject. We begin with a theoretical explanation of the concept of neuroscience and then go on to discuss the rights involved and how they may be impacted. Reference will then be made to the new neuro-rights discussed in the literature, presenting the regulatory proposal in Chile alongside its respective criticisms. Finally, we conclude that it is necessary to regulate and create opportunities for analysis and debate on developing regulations on neurotechnology.

Neuroscience and Neurotechnology

Neuroscience studies different aspects of brain functioning and the nervous system. There are various branches of science that study neuroscience from different fields. Examples include genetics, cellular biology, anatomy, and physiology. Neurotechnology analyzes the application of various tools to study brain functioning. Such tools seek to solve physical and psychological problems that could come to affect normal brain functioning or the normal functioning of other bodily organs.

An example of neurotechnology’s application is the use of “BCI,” or Brain Computer Interface, which may help people who suffer from various types of paralysis. BCIs record brain waves, which are interpreted by a system and then a command is sent to a machine that performs the corresponding operation.[3] BCIs improve the lives of people who suffer certain types of disabilities. The use of this technology can improve memory functions or even improve the mobility of individuals with physical disabilities.[4]

Alongside the benefits, these tools also present great risks to certain individual rights. Their misuse may affect individual rights such as freedom, privacy, data protection, and proper societal development. According to Spanish neurobiologist Rafael Yuste,[5] within 10 years we will be using neurotechnology to read and record brain activity. As a result, using neurotechnology to change brain activity necessarily requires an ethical development of this technology. 

Neurotechnology and Rights

As already mentioned, the development of neurotechnology could bring major benefits to human beings. However, if used incorrectly, neurotechnology could affect their rights. The rights to privacy, freedom of thought, no discrimination, and the right to protect personal data could be affected by the incorrect use of neurotechnology.

The creation of devices and tools arising from neurotechnology could lead to the creation of new rights. Ieca and Adorno have presented four new rights applicable to neuroscience: mental privacy, cognitive liberty, mental integrity, and the right to psychological continuity.[6]

Mental privacy is defined[7] as the right to protect what we think and feel. Humans’ most private and intimate possessions are those that reside in theire brains. Science, applying technological tools, will soon come to know what people think and feel, and eventually, be able to analyze and modify these thoughts and feelings.

Cognitive liberty goes hand in hand with mental self-determination. This right is comprised of two elements, (i) an individual’s right to freely use new technologies and (ii) the protection of individuals against the mandatory use of said technologies. This right is based in the freedom of individuals to choose whether to use these technologies.

The right to mental integrity has a broader meaning that goes beyond the traditional guarantee of mental and physical integrity as an expression of adequate health. Within the framework of neuro-rights, this right, refers to those devices and tools not causing any damage to the brain or brain activity, where no unauthorized modification occurs.

Finally, the right to psychological continuity means that through neurotechnology, no type of abuse, threat, or alteration to the mental activity of a person occurs that may affect the personality or personal identity of an individual.

Chile and Neuro-Rights

Chile is a pioneer in the regulation of neurotechnology, promoting two bills on the matter, called “Neuro-Rights Bills.” The first is a constitutional reform establishing that scientific and technological development must be in the service of the people. This reform was introduced through Law No. 21.383[8] which modifies article 19.1 of the Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile with the following text:

“Scientific and technological research shall be at the service of the people and shall maintain respect for life and physical and psychological integrity. The law shall regulate the requirements, conditions, and restrictions for scientific and technological use in people, and shall especially safeguard brain activity, as well as the information derived from it.”

In the amendment, the protection and safeguarding of brain activity during technological development is expressly included, creating the need for a regulatory framework in the event that technology affects normal functioning.

Additionally, a draft bill on the protection of neuro-rights and mental integrity[9] (the “Bill”), as well as the development and investigation of neurotechnology was presented. The Bill is intended to protect physical and psychological integrity of the people in the face of development and advancement of neurotechnology.

It is important to note that the Bill recognizes the freedom of people to use any system or type of neurotechnology. To this effect, a persons consent must be free, prior, and informed, as well as provided explicitly in writing. It may be revoked at any time.

The proposed amendments have not been free of controversy. Authors such as Zuñiga, Villanvicencio, and Salas[10] have openly criticized the creation of neuro-rights, noting that the risks of neurotechnology are already regulated by existing rights (privacy, freedom, data protection). For these authors, new threats can easily be regulated by allowing for an evolution of said rights, and as such, the constitutional amendment would have no legal grounds.

Conclusions

The ongoing development of neuroscience, and especially neurotechnology, will benefit human beings. Some tools, instruments, and procedures for the development of neurotechnology could cause risks to constitutionally recognized rights and international treaties. For the time being, it cannot be irrefutably determined that these risks or impacts require specific regulation for the creation or recognition of new rights. In any case, an academic debate on the impact of this technology and the need for regulation is key. Prior to developing new rights, an ethical and legal framework for the future of neurotechnology needs to be created; this is essential to ensure respect and protection of the rights and freedoms currently recognized.

[1] Yuste, R.; Genser, J.; Hermann, S., It´s Time for Neuro-Rights (2021), Horizons. https://www.perseus-strategies.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Neuro-Rights-Horizons-Winter-2021.pdf 

[2] N.A., (2019). Iberdrola. Neurotecnología. Recuperadoi de: https://www.iberdrola.com/innovacion/neurotecnologia

[3] N.A., (2021). NeuroTech Edu. Intro to BCI. Retrieved from: http://learn.neurotechedu.com/introtobci/

[4] Jamil, N.; Palmer, J. (2020). Frontiers in Neuroscience. Neural Tech. Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2020.00692/full

[5] Arancibia, F., (2022). Rafael Yuste, neurobiólogo precursor del proyecto BRAIN: “Hay una línea roja que no se debe cruzar: el cerebro no se toca, es la esencia del ser humano” Retrieved from: https://interferencia.cl/articulos/rafael-yuste-neurobiologo-precursor-del-proyecto-brain-hay-una-linea-roja-que-no-se-debe

[6] Ienca, M. Y Andorno, R. (2021) Hacia nuevos derechos humanos en la era de la neurociencia y la neurotecnología.  Retrieved from: https://www.redalyc.org/journal/3400/340067606006/html/#redalyc_340067606006_ref12

[7] Maldonado, P., (2019), Neuroderechos: la discusión por la privacidad mental y el control del cerebro ya está aquí. Universidad de Chile. Retrieved from:  https://www.uchile.cl/noticias/156392/neuroderechos-la-discusion-por-la-privacidad-mental

[8] Law 21.383

[9] Senado República de Chile. Boletín 13828-19. Retrieved from: https://www.senado.cl/appsenado/templates/tramitacion/index.php?boletin_ini=13828-19

[10] Zuñiga, A; Villavicencio, L; Salas, R. (2020). ¿Neuroderechos? Razón para no legislar. Ciper. Retrieved from: https://www.ciperchile.cl/2020/12/11/neuroderechos-razones-para-no-legislar/

Pablo Dent y Rafael Serrano
Associates at CorralRosales
pdent@corralrosales.comrserrano@corralrosales.com

Protection period for Plant Varieties: Ecuador’s lack of compliance with community and international regulations

Edificio de cristal con el logo de CorralRosales más una foto de Andrea Miño, asociada de la firma

Intellectual property law protects plant varieties under the rights of the plant breeder, which grants legal protection to individuals or corporations that obtain a plant variety through plant breeding procedures. For this to be applicable, the plant variety must be new and adhere to the technical requirements of “distinction,uniformity, and stability” (DUS).

A plant breeder´s rightis a recognition by the State of individuals or corporations that have discovered or created a new plant variety; this new variety is then set out in a plant breeder certificate granting the plant breeder the exclusive right to use said plant variety for growth and cultivation during a fixed period. Once that period ends, the plant variety becomes public domain.

Provisions relating to the requirements of protection, rights, and limitations on new plant varieties are detailed in the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention, 1978). In the Andean Community, such regulations are set out in the Common Regime on the Protection of the Rights of Breeders of New Plant Varieties (Decision 345). Ecuador also has a specific legal body to govern such matters, which is the Organic Law of the Social Economy of Knowledge, Creativity, and Innovation and its corresponding Regulation.

The protection period granted depends mainly  on the group to which the plant variety belongs to.  To this end, two groups have been established: the first group includes vines, forest trees, and fruit trees (including their rootstock); and the second group includes all other species. The UPOV Convention, ratified by Ecuador in May 1997, provides that the protection of plant varieties is granted beginning on the date of approval and lasts at least  eighteen (18) years for species in the first group and fifteen (15) years for species in the second group.[1] Decision 345, meanwhile, grants protection for a period of twenty (20) to twenty-five (25) years for species in the first group and fifteen (15) to twenty (20) years for all other species. These terms are always counted from the date the plant variety is approved.[2]

Ecuador’s legislation has certain discrepancies relating to the type of protection and the time at which it is granted. Its Intellectual Property Law, which was repealed in 2016 but is applicable to all requests presented before this date, allows for a period of protection equal to that set out in the community regulation. However, it contradictorily determined that the protection granted would begin from the date plant variety is requested.[3] Current legislation corrected this error, providing protection from the date the right is granted. Nevertheless, the period itself is more restrictive, establishing eighteen (18) years for varieties in the first group, and fifteen (15) years for the second.[4]

To this effect, a plant breeder that protects a plant variety in the first group in Peru, Bolivia, or Colombia, will obtain a minimum protection of twenty (20) years for a variety belonging to the first group, while in Ecuador, the same variety will not be protected for more than eighteen (18) years, thereby contradicting the supranational regulation.

The Treaty Creating the Court of Justice of the Andean Community imposes upon member states the obligation to adopt measures to enforce the laws in its legal system and the commitment to avoid adopting measures that are contradictory or that could create obstacles to its application.[5] The bylaws of said Court considers infringing conduct to be the enactment of internal norms that contradict the Andean legal system.[6]

For this reason, the provisions of the Organic Law of Social Economy of Knowledge, Creativity, and Innovation, which contradict the community regulation, constitute an infringing conduct which could be considered lack of compliance by Ecuador. Consequently, the National Intellectual Rights Service should draft a bill to correct the aforementioned inconsistencies and send it to the National Assembly via Ecuador’s president for processing.

[1] International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Varieties, Article 8 Duration of Protection, 1962

[2] Common Provisions on the Protection of the Rights of Breeders of New Plant Varieties; Chapter IV, Registration, Article 21.  

[3] Intellectual Property Law, Book III, Section II, Registration Procedure, Article 268.)

[4] Organic Law of the Social Economy of Knowledge, Creativity, and Innovation, Title IV; Plant Varieties; Section V, Rights and limitations, Article 485.

[5] The Andean Community Treaty Creating the Court of Justice, Article 4.

[6] Bylaws of the Andean Community Justice Tribunal, article 107, second paragraph.

Andrea Miño
Associate at CorralRosales
andrea@corralrosales.com

CorralRosales’ International Legal Alliance TAGLaw Named “Elite” by Chambers & Partners

logo de la alianza legal internacional de CorralRosales, TAGLaw, y logo del reconocimiento de Chambers & Partners

CorralRosales’ international legal alliance, TAGLaw®, has again been recognized by Chambers & Partners as “Elite” for 2022—the highest ranking awarded to legal networks and alliances. This is the ninth time TAGLaw has received the distinguished “Elite” designation since Chambers & Partners began ranking legal networks and alliances in 2013.

TAGLaw was also invited provide the introduction to this year’s rankings guide: “GLOBAL LAW FIRM NETWORKS: An Introduction to Global Market Leaders”. In the introduction, TAGLaw discusses the challenges faced by law firms in 2021 and what the future holds for firms, alliances, and networks. 

“We are honored to be named an “Elite” international legal network/alliance for the ninth year and to contribute our thoughts to the annual introduction for the third time.” said Richard Attisha, President & CEO of TAGLaw and TAG Alliances. “Over the years, Chambers & Partners has continually acknowledged both the reputation of our global alliance and our individual member firms and their lawyers. This prestigious recognition is truly a testament to the quality of our member firms, illustrated by their prominence in their local markets and by their ability to deliver outstanding client service.”

In selecting networks and alliances for their “Elite” status, Chambers & Partners pays particular attention to the quality of the member firms, their global reach, and the value that the alliance provides to its member firms. TAGLaw, with a global footprint in over 90 countries, has over 160 leading firms providing legal services to companies ranging from the Fortune 5000 and leading SMEs to high-net-worth individuals. More than 100 of TAGLaw’s member firms have received individual rankings and award recognitions from Chambers & Partners. With expertise in dozens of practice areas and countless industry sectors, TAGLaw offers a substantial capability to its members’ clients. This capability is expanded by TAGLaw’s unique relationship with its sister alliances of accounting firms (TIAG®) and strategic partners (TAG-SP®), which together provide exceptional multidisciplinary service and a competitive advantage to businesses that cross geographical borders. 

About TAG Alliances®

TAG Alliances is comprised of three divisions: TAGLaw®, TIAG® (The International Accounting Group), and TAG-SP®. TAGLaw is an international alliance of more than 160 independent law firms. TIAG is an international alliance of more than 115 independent accounting firms. TAG-SP is a complementary association of strategic business partners. Collectively, TAG Alliances members provide legal, accounting, financial and business support services on a worldwide scale. With approximately 17,000 professionals in over 290 member firms, and more than 750 offices in over 105 countries, members of the TAG Alliances serve tens of thousands of clients from all industry and commercial sectors. TAG Alliances is consistently recognized as one of the Top 10 alliances of accounting & legal alliances in the world.

Learn more at www.TAGAlliances.com.

Ecuador: The National Intellectual Rights Service recognizes as a possible act of unfair competition the attempt to register a trademark identical to another that is already on the market

Ecuador: El Servicio Nacional de Derechos Intelectuales reconoce como un posible acto de competencia desleal pretender el registro de una marca idéntica a otra que ya está en el mercado.

The National Intellectual Rights Service (hereinafter, “SENADI”), when deciding an opposition against the application for the mark DASH in class 11, considered that the applied-for mark was unregistrable since there was a risk of confusion for consumers due to the prior existence of the opposing party’s trademark DASH in Class 09.

SENADI also considered that attempting to register a mark identical to another that is already on the market could be considered an act of unfair competition. This argument is usually rejected in most cases, so its acceptance in in this case is a rare event and undoubtedly will serve as a reference for future cases.

Background:

On November 19, 2019, a natural person applied for the mark “DASH” intended to protect goods in international class No. 11, specifically: “Apparatus for lighting, heating, steam generating, cooking, refrigerating, drying, ventilating, water supply and sanitary purposes [1].

PA-CO COMERCIAL E INDUSTRIAL S.A. filed an opposition based on trademark “DASH”, to protect the following goods in Class 09: “scientific, nautical, surveying, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, control (inspection), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; Apparatus for conducting, distributing, transforming, accumulating, regulating or controlling electricity; apparatus for recording, transmission, reproduction of sound or images; magnetic record carriers, recording discs; automatic vending machines and mechanisms for prepaid apparatus; cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment and computers; fire extinguishers.” The opposing party also argued the applicant’s unfair competition.

On July 10, 2020, the applicant answered the opposition, which was added to the file on January 31, 2022. 

Case resolution:

Through Resolution No. 2000009, issued on February 15, 2022, SENADI accepted the opposition filed, rejecting the registration of the applied-for mark. In the aforementioned resolution, SENADI considered that that the conflicting marks were identical as well as acknowledged the relationship between the conflicting classes. Therefore, it concluded that there was a risk of confusion or association for consumers, who could assume that the goods are related or have the same business origin.

Regarding the registrability of trademarks, Decision 486 of the Andean Community establishes that:

“Those signs whose use in commerce unduly affects a third party’s right may not be registered as trademarks, in particular when:

a) are identical or similar to a trademark previously applied for registration or registered by a third party, for the same products or services, or for products or services in respect of which the use of the trademark may cause a risk of confusion or association[2]; (…)”

When deciding the opposition, SENADI ruled on the argument of unfair competition -an uncommon fact – in the following terms:

Given the above, it could be considered as an act of unfair competition, the fact that it is intended to register a mark that is identical to a trademark that is in the market, generating confusion among consumers, which is precisely what intellectual property should avoid.”

In this regard, Decision 486 of the Andean Community rules that:

“When the competent national office has reasonable indications that allow it to infer that a registration had been filed to perpetrate, facilitate, or consolidate an act of unfair competition, it may deny said registration.[3]; (…)”

With this decision, SENADI has taken a very positive step in the analysis of intellectual property matters, leaving aside purely formal aspects, by analyzing complex situations, protecting not only trademarks owners but also consumers.

[1] Proceeding No. SENADI-2019-82640.

[2] Article 136 of the Decision 486 of the Andean Community.

[3] Article 137 of the Decision 486 of the Andean Community.

Katherine González
Associate at CorralRosales
katherine@corralrosales.com

The ultra vires principle under Ecuador corporate law

Edificio alto de cristal y foto de Milton Carrera, asociado de CorralRosales, firma de abogados de Ecuador

The Latin phrase ultra vires (abuse of power) is applied in corporate law when a company exceeds the activities determined in its corporate purpose. The ultra vires principle implies that the company lacks the capacity to perform acts or contracts that are outside the scope of the corporate purpose.

 The doctrine states that the determination of the ultra vires condition of an act or contract is given by an element alien to them: the purpose of the company. Consequently, ultra vires acts or contracts do not have defects in their conformation nor were executed by administrators without sufficient capacity to bind the company.

Likewise, the doctrine establishes that the ultra vires principle has a double purpose: (i) it is a protection mechanism for creditors who, based on a principle of determination of the corporate purpose, have full knowledge of the scope of the activities of the company with which they contracted; and (ii) an instrument for the protection of shareholders who invest in a company in which the scope of action for the development of its business is determined.

 Article 3 of the Law on Companies, applicable to stock corporations and limited liability companies, states in its pertinent part that:

 “The corporate purpose of a company may, in general, include one or several lawful economic activities, except for those that the Constitution or the law prohibits or reserves for other types of entities. The corporate purpose must be clearly established in its articles of association or incorporation document

Morever, it provides that:

The acts or contracts executed or entered into in violation of this article shall not bind the company, but the administrators who have executed or entered into them, or the partners or shareholders who have authorized them, shall be personally and jointly and severally liable before third parties in good faith, for the respective damages and losses.”

 Therefore, it is established that these acts or contracts do not bind the corporation, but the administrators who performed them, and even the shareholders who authorized them, must respond for the damages caused. The latter because the purpose of the doctrine is the protection of the third party in good faith that contracts with a company assuming that it does so within its corporate purpose.

However, some trends in modern corporate law deviate from the ultra vires principle by limiting the operational capacity of the company when what is sought is to allow companies to perform all lawful acts or acts permitted by law.  In this sense, the unnumbered article of the Law on Companies, titled “contents of the incorporation document”, paragraph 6, when referring to the simplified stock corporation, establishes that, among other requirements, it must include:

a clear and complete statement of the activities foreseen in its corporate purpose, unless it is expressed that the company may perform any lawful commercial or civil activity”. 

In this way, the simplified stock corporation may opt for an undetermined corporate purpose, which means a radical change to the traditional corporate approach.

In conclusion, the ultra vires principle is currently applicable to stock corporations and limited liability companies, but not to simplified stock corporations, which have opted for an indeterminate object.  We do not find a valid argument why this flexibility recognized to the SAS has not been extended to stock corporations and limited liability companies.

Milton Carrera
Associate at CorralRosales
mcarrera@corralrosales.com

Self-sufficiency of Regulated Consumers through Renewable Energy Sources

Energy Sources

Renewable energy sources are increasingly important in tackling climate change[1]. They are also essential to achieve safe and environmentally friendly energy development[2]. As a result, companies have a growing tendency to assume environmental commitments in the international private sphere, including electricity consumption with clean energy[3].

Regarding this, Ecuadorian legislation, as an alternative to power purchase and sale schemes[4], contemplates the possibility of installing and operating non-conventional renewable energy systems for the self-sufficiency of electrical energy[5]

This article (i) contains the main characteristics of distributed generation systems and (ii) summarizes the procedure that must be followed before the respective electricity distribution company (hereinafter, the “Distributor”) for their installation and operation.

  1. Distributed Generation System

Through Regulation No. ARCERNNR-013/2021 of April 05, 2021 (hereinafter, the “Regulation”), the Agency for the Regulation and Control of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources (hereinafter, “ARCERNNR”) regulated article 24 of the Regulation to the Law of the Public Electric Power Service (hereinafter, the “RGLOSPEE”), which empowers any natural or legal person to install and operate electric power generation systems for self-sufficiency, provided they maintain a supply contract with the Distributor and benefit from the provision of the public energy service (hereinafter, “regulated consumer“).

The systems must have the following main characteristics:

i. Its nominal power must be less than 1 MW[6].

ii. Its annual production must be equal to or less than the annual energy demand of the regulated consumer.

iii. It must be a distributed generation system[7]. That is, the energy has to be produced from small generation plants, close to consumption (within the same service area[8]where the regulated consumer is located), and connected to the power distribution network.

iv. It should be based on non-conventional renewable energy sources (e.g., wind, solar, etc.).

Distributed generation systems for self-sufficiency (hereinafter, “SGDA”) do not limit electrical energy consumption from the traditional distribution network. Therefore, if the SGDA does not cover the demand of the regulated consumer, they can additionally consume electricity from the grid. On the other hand, as provided in article 18 of the Regulation, if due to operating conditions of the SGDA or variation in consumption, there are surpluses of energy produced by the SGDA, these will be injected into the power distribution network. As a result, a credit will be generated in favor of the regulated consumer, who will be compensated with the consumptions made from said network.

Therefore, any company can install and operate, for example, solar panels connected to the distribution network, with a nominal power of less than 1MW, to generate clean energy and cover all or part of its demand.

2. Procedure

The following procedure must be followed to install and operate an SGDA:

i. The regulated consumer must request the Distributor to determine whether or not it is feasible to connect the SGDA to the power distribution network. In said request, the general data of the regulated consumer and the SGDA must be included (e.g., nominal power, an estimate of the annual energy to be generated, primary energy resource, connection point to the distribution network, among others).

ii. If the Distributor determines that the connection is feasible, it will accept the request and establish the connection scheme and operating conditions of the SGDA.

iii. Once the “feasibility of connection” is granted as defined by the standard, the regulated consumer must demonstrate to the Distributor that it complies with the requirements established in the Regulation to install and operate the SGDA. For which you must present the following fundamental information:

  • Location of the property or property where the SGDA will be installed; 
  • SGDA technical report;
  • Design of the works and/or necessary adjustments to the distribution network for the connection of the SGDA; and,
  • Project execution schedule.

iv. If the Distributor determines that the requirements are met, it will issue the Qualification Certificate, that is, the document that enables the regulated consumer to install and operate the SGDA under the conditions approved and established by the Distributor.

Those who want to benefit from this scheme should take the following into account:

  • The SGDA must be installed according to the execution schedule approved by the Distributor.
  • The regulated consumer must cover the costs of the works and/or adjustments necessary to connect the SGDA to the distribution network.
  • The necessary assistance must be provided to the Distributor to carry out the tests it deems pertinent to the equipment that will allow the connection of the SGDA to the distribution network.
  • The regulated consumer will be responsible for the SGDA’s quality and safe operation to the Distributor and competent authorities. Also, will be liable for any damages to third parties derived from such operation. 
  • The Qualification Certificate will be valid for the useful life of the SGDA:
TechnologyUseful Life(years)Photovoltaic25Wind25Biomass20Biogas20Hydraulic30
  • The Qualification Certificate may be terminated for various reasons[9], among them, due to: (i) increasing the nominal power of the SGDA without prior authorization from the Distributor, (ii) the expiration of its period of validity, or (iii) the decision of the regulated consumer. Upon the termination of the Qualification Certificated, the SGDA will be disconnected of the distribution network.    

In conclusion, the SGDA is an interesting option for regulated consumers who want to make environmental commitments, such as meeting their demand for electricity with clean energy. Furthermore, if the SGDA is appropriately structured, its installation and operation could be cheaper than the regular consumption cost of the power distribution network. In this case, the investment is profitable, and the consumer could install the SGDA in order to: (i) eliminate its consumption from the distribution network; or (ii) reduce it and, eventually, compensate it if the SGDA produces energy above its own needs. 

[1] Hugo Altomonte, ed., “Non-conventional renewable energies in the electricity generation matrix: three case studies”, ECLAC, accessed October 31, 2021, https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362 /40975/S1601254_es.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[2] Susa Jiménez, “Non-Conventional Renewable Energy: Promotion Policies in Chile and the World”, Libertad y Desarrollo, ISSN: 0717 – 1536, accessed on November 21, 2021, https://archivos.lyd.org/other/files_mf /sie218energiarenovablenoconventcionalpoliticasdepromocionenchileyelmundosjimenezsetember2011.pdf

 Santiago Hoyos, Carlos Franco and Isaac Dyner, “Integration of non-conventional renewable energy sources to the electricity market and its impact on the price.”, Ingenieria y Ciencia, doi: 10.17230 / ingciencia.13.26.5, http: // www. scielo.org.co/pdf/ince/v13n26/1794-9165-ince-13-26-00115.pdf

[3] Veronika Henze, “Corporate Clean Energy Buying Grew 18% in 2020, Despite Mountain of Adversity” BloomberNEF, January 26, 2021, https://about.bnef.com/blog/corporate-clean-energy-buying-grew-18-in-2020-despite-mountain-of-adversity/ 

[4] The sale of electricity between private parties is possible under two schemes: (i) the buyer must qualify as a large consumer and buy all their demand for electricity from a generator or self-generator authorized as such before the competent authority; or (ii) the buyer must be a shareholder in a self-generator to buy electricity from the latter. 

[5] Paragraph 10 of article 3 of the LOSPEE states that “… Non-conventional renewable energies are considered to be sources: solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, tidal, hydroelectric of smaller capacities, under the terms and conditions established in the regulations, and others that will be defined in the respective regulation. “

[6] According to the ARCERNNR, the average consumption of regulated customers at the residential, commercial and industrial level is 141.42 kWh, 575.68kWh and 9,739.14 kWh, respectively. Available at: https://www.controlrecursosyenergia.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2021/09/Estadistica-2020-baja.pdf

[7] Article 3 of the RGLOSPEE defines distributed generation as: “(…) Small generation plants installed close to consumption and connected to the distribution company’s network.”.

[8] Article 3 of the RGLOSPEE defines the service area as “… the geographic area established by the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources in which an electricity company provides the public service of distribution and commercialization of electric power and the public lighting service….”

[9] Ecuador, Regulation No. ARCERNNR-013/2021, Official Registry 448, May 10, 2021, Art. 11.      

Mario Fernández García
Associate at CorralRosales
mfernandez@corralrosales.com

The benefits of the ICSID Convention vis-à-vis foreign investors

The benefits of the ICSID Convention vis-à-vis foreign investors - CorralRosales - Sofía Rosales - Lawyers Ecuador

During this past month, Ecuador’s ratification of the ICSID Convention and its direct influence on the attraction of foreign investment has been the subject of many comments.

Why is it key to attracting foreign investment? Dispute resolution under the ICSID Convention has many advantages, and particularly regarding arbitration, there are 3 main characteristics that make it so attractive to investors: (i) it is an institution specialized in international investments; (ii) it provides for the automatic recognition of awards; and (iii) it has its own procedure for annulment of awards. Below an analysis of these characteristics:

  1. Specialized institution in international investments:

Having an arbitration administered by ICSID gives the investor the security of having a global and independent institution specifically dedicated to the settlement of international investment disputes. It is often difficult for a foreign investor to invest in a country if, in the event a dispute arises, it would be resolved by the country’s own courts. This generates a disadvantage for the investor and a feeling of lack of protection, especially considering that local courts often do not have the necessary experience in this field.

In an arbitration administered by ICSID, an impartial arbitral tribunal, which is expert in the subject matter, and has an in-depth knowledge of international investment disputes- which are often the cause of disputes- is constituted.

  • Automatic recognition of awards:

The Contracting States – currently numbering 156 (including Ecuador) – are compelled to automatically recognize the award rendered under the ICSID Convention, as if it were a decision issued by the courts of that country, i.e., without the need to carry out the formal recognition procedure known as exequatur. This facilitates, simplifies, and significantly shortens the time in which the award is enforced, which means less time and costs for both the investor and the State.

  • Procedure for annulment of awards:

As a general rule in international arbitration, an action for annulment of an award is brought before the ordinary courts of the country of the seat of arbitration. On the contrary, in the case of an arbitration administered by ICSID, such action is brought before the Center itself, in such a way that that no local courts of any State are involved, but an ad hoc commission composed of 3 individuals selected from the list of arbitrators of the Center (other than the members of the tribunal that rendered the award, and of different nationalities from any of the members of such tribunal and the parties) is appointed.

In conclusion, the protection derived from the arbitration procedure under the ICSID Convention enhances the foreign investor’s environment, which, undoubtedly, added to other measures adopted by the government, could turn Ecuador into a sort of investment hub in Latin America.

Sofía Rosales
Asocciate at CorralRosales
srosales@corralrosales.com

The extraordinary appeal for review provided for in the Organic Administrative Code, against the decisions issued by the National Service of Intellectual Rights

The extraordinary appeal for review provided for in the Organic Administrative Code, against the decisions issued by the National Service of Intellectual Rights - CorralRosales - Lawyers Ecuador

The Organic Administrative Code (“COA”) provides that, against the decisions issued by the public administration, there are two kinds of appeals: ordinary appeal and extraordinary appeal for review. The first seeks to have the authority re-analyze the merits of the case with a view on modifying its decision. The extraordinary appeal for review, on the other hand, is possible only when any of the specific grounds provided for in the COA are met – it does not constitute a third instance – hence its extraordinary nature. In recent years, a common practice has been to file an extraordinary appeal for review against final decisions denying or granting the registration of a trademark, against which the ordinary appeal has already been lodged -or it was not filed in due course- in order for the National Service for Intellectual Rights (“SENADI”) to change its criteria regarding the risk of confusion or association between the conflicting marks. Although the SENADI prima facie gives way to this type of procedure, it has stated that “The extraordinary appeal for review constitutes a legal remedy aimed at correcting an error in the formation of the administrative will, or any illegality in the issuance of the decision, with the interested party having the ordinary remedies to disagree with the criteria of the judge, in this case, with the comparative analysis of the confronted marks.[1]

In this regard, Article 232 of the COA provides that “The interested individual may file an extraordinary appeal for review of the final administrative act when any of the following circumstances are verified:

1. That when issuing them, an obvious and manifest factual error has been incurred in, which affects the merits of the case, provided that the factual error results from the documents incorporated into the file.

2. That when issuing them, an obvious and manifest error of law has been incurred in, which affects the merits of the case. (…) The extraordinary appeal for review shall be filed, in the case of cause 1, within a period of one year following the date of notification of the contested decision (…)”.

It derives from the aforementioned provision that, unlike the ordinary appeal, the extraordinary appeal for review is not intended to review the legal arguments relied on by the authority in its decision but is aimed at reviewing and remedying, if necessary, defects in the processing of the administrative proceeding.

Unfortunately, nowadays, many users have chosen to file extraordinary appeals for review when what they are really requesting is to review the existence or not of the risk of confusion between two trademarks. And this is usually done as a way of demonstrating dissatisfaction with the decision issued through second instance decisions. An example of this can be found in case No. SENADI-2016-92900, in which SENADI admitted to process an extraordinary appeal for review against a decision denying an appeal in which the opposition filed was accepted, and the registration of a trademark was rejected. Within the aforementioned extraordinary appeal for review, the arguments used to request the revocation of the decision were:

  • Comparison between the confronted trademarks and the supposed absence of risk of confusion.
  • Absence of spelling and phonetic similarities between the conflicting marks.
  • Lack of competitive connection between the protected goods.

It is evident that the grounds for the aforementioned extraordinary appeal for review are not related to those provided for in Article 232 of the COA and what the applicant is seeking is to review again a decision that has already exhausted all administrative instances.

We will have to wait for the final decision of SENADI to have a clearer vision of its criteria in this matter. However, it is to be expected that the authority will reiterate the aforementioned criterion, rejecting the extraordinary appeal for review at the time of issuing the final decision (although it should have done it at the admissibility stage), thus putting an end to this practice. If so, with this precedent, SENADI should not admit to process these kinds of appeals in the future, since it is extremely important that the extraordinary nature of the appeal for review is respected in order to safeguard legal certainty and avoid its use as a kind of third instance by the interested parties.

[1] Decision OCDI-2021-230 from March 30, 2021. Proceeding 15-1516-RV-2S-RR-2018.

Katherine González H.
Asocciate at CorralRosales
katherine@corralrosales.com

The right to effective judicial protection

The right to effective judicial protection - CorralRosales - Lawyers Ecuador - Latam - Ramón Paz y Miño

The concept of guarantee of rights has undergone fundamental transformations in the last century, which have contributed to the development of the protection and safeguarding of rights in the Constitutions. To all this, the abandonment of “the romantic pretension, derived from the French Revolution, whereby it was sufficient to enshrine human rights in the political constitution, for them to be respected by authorities and citizens” also contributed to this regard (Jimenez, 2000, pg.549).

The current constitutional text, in force since 2008, broadens and strengthens the complex and concept of guarantees and rights, increasing the instruments of defense and developing the content of the guarantees already existing in the previous Constitution (Storini, 2010, pg. 287).

In order to understand the right to effective judicial protection, it is important to highlight the purpose of legal proceedings.

The progress of society compels to restrict the private defense of rights in case of conflict, to the extent of reaching the current conception of jurisdiction, as the exclusive power of the State, to intervene in any conflict that actually or eventually disturbs social peace. (Becerra, 1977, pg. 22).

In this context, each citizen – paraphrasing Rousseau – surrendered part of its freedom to the State, so that the latter exclusively provides the tools to enforce rights through the judiciary branch, which is shielded with autonomy in the application of the Constitution and the law. Therefore, “the final purpose of procedural law is the regulation of the process, currently carried out by the jurisdictional organ exclusively”. (Becerra, 1977, pg. 23).

The State “in the legal field, not only complies with the creation and establishment of legal norms, but legal protection implies integrating the regulatory role with another, complementary, second-degree role. To the task of dictating norms this other role is added with the objective of conserving the legal order when it is unknown and the individual claims protection, which is the jurisdictional function”. (Véscovi, 1984, pg.7)

This leads us to conclude that procedural law “regulates this complex of acts in order to obtain jurisdictional protection” (Becerra, 1977, pg. 23).

The right to effective judicial protection is a complex right that “acts as an umbrella that reinforces the protection of other guarantees of a procedural nature, in case they do not have constitutional coverage”. (Aguirre, 2010, pg.12). Therefore, it constitutes a paramount cornerstone in the conception and development of a process, which is complex and is related to several elements that compose it.

For several decades, several international instruments[1] have established effective judicial protection as a right of utmost importance; however, our legal system remained silent until the enactment of the 1998 Constitution.

Currently, the Constitutional Court (hereinafter, the “Court”) has established that effective judicial protection constitutes the right of every individual to resort to the courts to obtain a well-founded judgment[2], which also involves the duty of the judge to adapt the proceedings to the specific case to be resolved, as follows:

“(…) specifies that the right to effective judicial protection does not exclusively entail the right of citizens to have access to the courts, but also involves the duty of the jurisdictional authorities to adapt their actions to the nature of the case brought before them in accordance with the provisions of the legal system”. (Constitutional Court of Ecuador, Judgment 133-17-SEP-CC, Case 0288-12-EP)[3]

The Court established three aspects in the content of this right: (i) access to justice, (ii) development of the proceedings in compliance with the Constitution and the law, in a reasonable time, and (iii) enforcement of the judgement[4].

Additionally, the Court established important cornerstones to distinguish effective judicial protection as an autonomous right in its content and nature, and determined that the right to judicial, impartial, and expeditious protection consists of the right to resort to the jurisdictional bodies in order to obtain a resolution regarding any legal conflict. Such resolution shall be based on law and must have been dictated after the process has been substantiated, observing and respecting the procedural guarantees established in the Constitution. (Constitutional Court of Ecuador, Ruling 254-18-SEP-C, Case 0952-EP) [5]

The foregoing is a clear definition of what is meant by effective protection, which can be summarized as the right of every individual to access a jurisdictional body, so that it may hear his or her claim through a proceeding in which the judge and the parties respect the basic guarantees, as well as the right to obtain decisions by the courts which are in accordance with the Constitution and the law and enforced.

Subsequently, the Court established the three instances of effective judicial protection, as follows:

  1. Access to justice.- (…) implies that the State as a whole, and more specifically, the justice administrative bodies in the country, allow people to access the justice system with their petitions, without establishing overbearing obstacles that make it impossible for them to do so (…) in order to obtain from the administration of justice the recognition of their rights before the State and before individuals (…)
  2. The development of the process in strict observance of the principle of due diligence – refers to the prompt and diligent performance by the jurisdictional authorities; that is, within a reasonable time and processing the case in accordance with the constitutional and legal regulations, in order to effectively protect the rights and interests of the parties (…)
  3. Enforcement of the decision. (Constitutional Court of Ecuador, Judgment 254-18-SEP-C, Case 0952-EP)

It was positive to introduce the principles of responsibility enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution, Article 15 of the Organic Code of the Judicial Function and the principle of due diligence contained in Article 172 of the Constitution; due diligence implies the fulfillment of the duty of care in the substantiation of the proceedings, observing the constitutional and legal provisions provided for resolution of disputes in the law brought to the attention of the courts. The latter further broadened the spectrum of the protection of the right to effective protection, including the implications and connotations that its non-observance would bring to the judges themselves and to the State.

It has been discussed whether or not arbitrators should ensure the right to effective judicial protection, since according to some criteria, this would be reserved only for judges and ordinary courts. If we call the right “effective judicial protection”, does this mean that arbitrators must protect this right? The obvious answer is yes, and if we want to call it effective arbitral protection, as a type, there is no difficulty. However, for the avoidance of doubt or contrary criteria, it is appropriate to refer to the right to the effective protection of justice (Martín Diz, 2014) [6] as the evolution of effective judicial protection, since it encompasses the rest of the mechanisms, including extra procedural or extrajudicial mechanisms recognized in legal systems. And, in Ecuador, arbitration is constitutionally recognized as a mean of dispute resolution.

In conclusion, effective protection has had an important and very positive development since the 2008 Constitution came into force, as the Court has worked to clarify and expand its elements. However, the system and understanding of complex law is not as expected, since there are important gaps to be solved, such as preparing judges, training them to issue better judgments and at the same time freeing them from “models”, “formulas”, “formats”, “evaluations by quantity” that prevent a true legal development and make it impossible to effectively apply the effective protection of justice.

References

Aguirre, V. (2010). El derecho a la tutela judicial efectiva: una aproximación a su aplicación a los tribunales ecuatorianos. Foro. Revista de Derecho No 14, 5-43.

Becerra , J. (1977). Introducción al Estudio del Derecho Procesal Civil. México: Cárdenas Editor y Distribuidor.

Jiménez, E. (2000). Derecho Constitucional Argentino, Tomo II, Sociedad Anónima editora, comercial, industrial y financiera. Ediar.

Martín Diz, F. (2014). Del derecho a la tutela judicial efectiva hacia el derecho a una tutela efectiva de la justicia. Revista Europea de Derechos Fundamentales, 161-176.

Narváez Aguirre, L. (abril de 2014). Tesis de grado: Facultades de los árbitros de suspender los efectos de los actos. Quito.

Storini, C. (2010). Las Garantías Constitucionales de los Derechos Fundamentales en la Constitución Ecuatoriana de 2008. Quito: Corporación Editora Nacional.

Véscovi, E. (1984). Teoría General del Proceso. Bogotá: TEMIS .

[1] The International Declaration of Human Rights (art. 10), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art. 14), the American Convention on Human Rights (art. 8), the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.

[2] Constitutional Court of Ecuador, Judgment 364-16- SEP-CC, Case 1470-14-EP

[3] Constitutional Court Ecuador, Judgment 133-17-SEP-CC, Case 0288-12-EP, 10/05/17.

[4] The Plenary of the Body in judgment No. 050-15-SEP-CC issued in case No. 1887-12-EP, the existence of three aspects in the essential content of the right to legal protection, which cannot be overlooked, as follows ‘(…) the first related to access to justice; the second with the development of the proceedings in strict compliance with the Constitution and the law and in a reasonable time, and the third in relation to the enforcement of the decision. (Constitutional Court of Ecuador, Judgment 133-17-SEP-CC, Case 0288-12-EP

[5] Constitutional Court of Ecuador, Judgment 254-18-SEP-C, Case 0952-EP, 11/07/18, p 10

[6] Fernando Martín Diz, “DEL DERECHO A LA TUTELA JUDICIAL EFECTIVA HACIA EL DERECHO A UNA TUTELA EFECTIVA DE LA JUSTICIA”.

Ramón Paz y Miño
Asocciate at CorralRosales
rpazymino@corralrosales.com

Joint Ventures in Ecuador

Joint Ventures in Ecuador - CorralRosales - Lawyers in Ecuador

The term Joint Venture appeared in the United States of America and has been widely accepted worldwide. It is a concept with a very broad meaning, which, in essence refers to agreements executed between individuals or companies in order to undertake a joint project, in which the rules that will be applied to its operation are determined.

The main characteristic of the Joint Venture is its contractual nature. This figure is used to designate different forms of cooperation between individuals or legal entities in order to achieve a common objective through the contribution of resources, without the parties losing their legal autonomy. The application of this type of contract is wide; contracts for marketing, manufacturing, supply, sales, technology, exploitation of natural resources, among others.

The doctrine mainly distinguishes between two types of Joint Ventures: i) Joint Venture Corporation and ii) Joint Venture Agreement. The difference between these figures is that the former has the purpose of incorporating a company different from its members, while the latter excludes any type of corporate relationship.

Notwithstanding the type of Joint Venture chosen, an essential element is its duration. This means that it must necessarily be a contract of a consecutive nature – not of instantaneous enforcement – since this duration is the one that allows the parties to venture jointly.

In Ecuador, the Joint Venture is regulated by the “EIGHTH TITLE of BUSINESS COLLABORATION” of the new Commercial Code (“Cc”) that came into force in 2019. It provides for two figures: the “Joint Venture” (Articles 585 to 600) and the “Commercial Consortium” (Articles 601 to 607).

Article 585 of the Cc defines the Joint Venture as:

A contract of associative nature, by means of which two or more persons, whether natural or legal, agree to operate a business in common for a specified period of time, agreeing to participate in the profits resulting from it, as well as to be liable for the obligations undertaken and for the losses incurred.”

 The following elements are worth highlighting:

  1. Contractual nature
  2. Associative nature
  3. Two or more individuals or legal entities
  4. Common business
  5. Determined period of time
  6. The parties participate in the profits and are liable for the obligations and losses.

It should be noted that the Cc only regulates the Joint Venture Agreement and does not refer to the Joint Venture Corporation or other types of Joint Venture. According to the provisions of the Cc the contract must be executed in writing, without the need for a public deed. Its termination must be carried out in the same way its constitution was executed. The instrument evidencing the termination decision shall detail the outstanding obligations and pending credits and the way in which the parties will be liable for them.

The contract must mainly establish:

  1. The business purpose and the term of duration.
  2. The internal rules regarding control and management, establishing the way in which the members will manage their interests.
  3. The form of profit sharing.
  4. The rules concerning the representation of the Joint Venture (i.e. whether a special attorney-in-fact will be appointed or whether the associates will represent it directly).
  5. The way in which the parties will respond vis-à-vis third parties, for example, if the liability is joint and several or proportional to the contributions, or certain quotas.
  6. How relationships between participants will be managed.
  7. The rules concerning dispute resolution.

If the parties do not provide for or do not agree on any of the elements mentioned above, the contract will be governed by the provisions established in Cc. For example, in the event of failure to indicate the party’s liability vis-à-vis- third parties, they will be jointly and severally liable or, as the case may be, will act as joint and several co-creditors.

The specific difference between a company and a Joint Venture is that the latter is not a legal person. Since it is not a company with limited liability, but an association, the liability  towards third parties is not limited to their capital contributions, but depends on what its members agree. In addition, the completion of the Joint Venture occurs with the consent of the parties in a written document and is not subject to any additional formality, nor to the control of the Superintendence of Companies.

Although the Cc does not regulate other types of Joint Venture, this does not imply that other types of Joint Venture are not allowed in Ecuador, such as:

  • Joint Venture Corporation through a new company: Two (or more) parties participate as shareholders with specific roles. In this case, with the creation of a new company, the liability via-a-vis third parties depends on the type of company adopted for this purpose, but in general the liability is limited to capital contributions.
  • Joint Venture Corporation through an existing company: The company of one of the parties is used to develop the business and internal accounting is kept per business unit for internal control. The liability to third parties follows the rules expressed in point i) above.
  • International Joint Venture: A figure characterized by individuals or companies from different countries. The legal figure that they adopt will depend on the agreements between the parties.

From a tax standpoint, even if the Joint Venture does not have a legal personality, it must comply with its tax obligations in accordance with the scope of its contract. Thus, article 98 of the Internal Tax Regime Law (Ley Orgánica de Régimen Tributario Interno) stipulates that -for tax purposes- the Joint Venture Agreement is considered as a company, so it must be registered in the Single Taxpayer Registry (Registro Único de Contribuyentes (RUC)). In the case of a Joint Venture Corporation, tax obligations go hand in hand with the type of company adopted.

In the antitrust field, it shall be noted that the Joint Venture is subject to antitrust legislation, since its creation may require prior authorization by the antitrust authority or be sanctioned pursuant to the provisions of the Organic Law for the Control of Market Power (Ley Orgánica de Control de Poder de Mercado) and its Regulation.

In conclusion, the Joint Venture should be conceived as a useful legal figure that can provide solutions at a time when it is necessary to be practical, dynamic, and creative with resources. Although its practicality is high, it is essential to carry out a legal analysis, case by case, in order to determine if it is the best legal instrument for the business. In any case, careful planning and communication, reflected in a contract that adequately captures the parties’ will, is key.

María Isabel Torres
Asocciate at CorralRosales
mtorres@corralrosales.com

1 2 3 6