Cristina Pinheiro Palmer is known as “an extremely reliable practitioner who excels in the domestic market” and applies two decades of experience to her strong IP practice.
Cristina Pinheiro Palmer is a graduate of the law school of the Federal University of RJ (1989, cum laude) and The National Law Center of The GWU (1992, LL.M in Patents and IP Law). She has been admitted to the New York (1994) and Brazilian (RJ, 1996) Bars. Her published cases include Enzo APA & Son, Inc. v. Geapag A.G (patent case); and Turner Greenberg Associates Inc. v. C& C Imports Inc. (trade dress case).
What attracted you to a career in trademarks?
The possibility of dealing with so many aspects of different subject matters and at the same time being very specialised. The whole practice of IP law is very challenging and diverse.
What has been your most interesting case to date, and why?
A writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States in a trademark infringement case because it was the very first brief I wrote in my career as a lawyer. It was interesting, challenging, scary and rewarding.
How has the rise of “fast fashion” in the jewellery industry impacted the work you do in relation to copyright infringement?
We have seen more and more unauthorised copies of jewellery in the market and this has had a huge impact on jewellery design owners, leading to an increase in the disputes involving jewellery designs. One of the problems is that the production is fast, coming from all directions, and the courts, in general, do not have the necessary knowledge to apply copyright law in a way that is fast and effective for the copyright owner. This is aggravated by the fact that often, the infringer will introduce into evidence (unauthorised) third-party’ copies of the protected designs with the sole intention of confusing and leading the court into finding that the design is not unique and protected. The “fast fashion” trend in the jewellery industry makes it easier for the infringer to do so. I had a foreign client who started very small and her jewellery designs became very famous on Instagram and extremely desirable around the world. As a consequence, she saw her designs being copied all around the world, including Brazil, where among many infringers, we found one that really copied every detail of her designs. The infringer even started imitating her advertising material. The court found copyright infringement and awarded damages against the infringers – including one of the defendants in her personal capacity -- for copyright infringement of over five million dollars. However, the client had to wait almost three years for a judgment which recognised her rights because the court refused to enter an injunction at the beginning of the case, even though it was impossible to tell one piece of jewellery from the other.
How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your practice and the IP landscape in Brazil more broadly?
In my practice, I saw a decline in IP work during the months of March to June of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it quickly picked back up in July of 2020.
A very significant event that recently occurred was the Supreme Court of Brazil ruling which found unconstitutional the section of the IP law which gave patent owners a minimum term of ten years when, at the time of the grant, less than half the patent term was left. The justification was based mostly on the rational that pharmaceutical patents should not be extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
How does your previous experience of practising IP law in the US complement your current practice?
Besides giving me a background which allows me to think about and resolve issues in a more comprehensive way, it also affects the way I interact with and respond to my clients. That experience allows me to quickly understand what a client from a common law jurisdiction seeks to accomplish when it contacts me and how to explain to the client, with comparative examples that it can understand, how it can be accomplished.
What are the most significant trends you are seeing in Brazil’s IP market?
A significant change flowing from the accession of Brazil to the Madrid Protocol, which is forcing IP law firms to rethink how they structure themselves and what their skill sets must be.
Why did you decide to set up your own firm?
Having had experience in two different legal systems, I reached a point where I had enough confidence and expertise in what I was doing to realise that the moment had arrived.
How do you see your practice developing in the next five years?
I see it expanding gradually into more litigation (copyright and trademarks) and patents, but still catering to clients that are seeking personal and tailored attention and counselling.