Protecting IP ownership and rights in Mexico: 6 things employers need to know  


Jun 8, 2023

Intellectual property—from confidential company information to industrial property to trade secrets—is what helps your business run. It gives you something of value to offer to your users or customers. And it sets you apart from your competition, giving you the edge you need to be successful.

That's why protecting your intellectual property, or IP, is so important. And if you're planning on hiring in Mexico (or expanding your business operations there), you have a whole new set of IP laws to learn.

Protecting your IP rights in one country can be prohibitively complex—let alone navigating IP protection across international borders. But if you need the basics on intellectual property protection in Mexico, you've come to the right place.

Below, you'll find six things you absolutely must know about Mexico's IP laws—plus frequently asked questions about IP rights and protecting your company's trade secrets overseas (note: our guide is for informational purposes, and isn’t intended to provide legal advice).

1. Mexico belongs to several major, international IP treaties

There are a number of international agreements that help bolster IP enforcement across international borders, and Mexico belongs to several, including:

  • The Paris Convention
  • The Patent Cooperation Treaty
  • The Hague Agreement
  • The Madrid Protocol
  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) (formerly the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA)

While Mexico also has its own laws about IP protection and enforcement, these treaties have helped shape the country's domestic regulations to get them more in line with international standards.

2. But your existing IP protection still may not extend to Mexico

Even with Mexico being a signatory in so many major IP enforcement treaties, existing IP protection you have in other countries may not extend to Mexico—you may need to register your IP there in order to protect it while you do business in Mexico.

In Mexico, you can register industrial property (which refers to patents, utility models, trademarks, and industrial designs) and copyrights through two main agencies:

Applications can be filed online at either agency (in Spanish only).

3. Mexico has a lot of agencies responsible for protecting IPR…

Mexico has agencies helping preserve intellectual property rights (IPR) at municipal, state, and federal levels. Here are the agencies created by Mexican law to protect intellectual property rights, and their different areas of enforcement:

  • The IMPI does more than just register patents, trademarks, and industrial designs—it's also responsible for the protection of industrial property through administrative enforcement of industrial property infringement.
  • INDAUTOR records copyrights, but also serves as an agency to administer disputes between copyright holders.
  • Unidad Especializada en Investigación de Delitos contra los Derechos de Autor y la Propiedad Industrial (UEIDDAPI), a unit within the Office of the Attorney General that enforces intellectual property law.
  • Aduanas (Mexican Customs Service) works to restrict the movement of illegal goods across Mexico's borders.
  • Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (COFEPRIS) oversees regulation related to processed food, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals.

These agencies all operate under two main intellectual property laws in Mexico:

  • The Ley de la Propiedad Industrial or Industrial Property Law, which protects industrial property

The Ley Federal del Derecho de Autor or Federal Copyright Law, which protects copyrights for literary works, music, art, photography, and computer programs

4. …But enforcement can still be tougher than you think

Despite Mexico's robust system of IP laws and enforcement agencies, the protection of intellectual property can be harder than you think.

There's a lack of coordination between the federal, state, and municipal-level agencies responsible for IP enforcement in Mexico, leading to widespread infringement. On top of that, authorities have limited budgets and resources, and the judicial process in Mexico can be long and cumbersome. 

Mexico is also home to many informal marketplaces (the largest of which are in Mexico City and Guadalajara), where pirated and counterfeit goods are commonly sold.

5. NDAs are enforceable in Mexico

Mexican courts have historically upheld non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as legally binding and enforceable. Even though Mexican law protects confidential business information, it's common for employers to ask employees and independent contractors to sign an NDA for more comprehensive protection.

For an NDA to be upheld in Mexico, it needs to meet a few requirements:

  • They must comply with Mexican contract law and the Civil Code.
  • They require the mutual consent of all parties involved.
  • There must be a clear offer, acceptance, and consideration (something of value exchanged). Consideration can be access to confidential information or an opportunity to engage in a business relationship, but it should be clearly specified in a clause in the NDA.

6. You can take steps to make sure you own IP created by your employees and contractors

In Mexico, the rights holder for IP created within an employment relationship depends on the specifics of the employment agreement.

In general, employers are presumed to own IP created by their employees and independent contractors if developing IP was one of the objectives of the work relationship.

It's also important to note that if an invention benefits an employer so much that the inventor's wage is not proportional to the benefit, the employee or contractor who invented it is entitled to additional compensation that they and the employer must agree on (or that the labor courts will decide if no agreement is reached).

To ensure they own IP created by their hires, companies operating in Mexico (or hiring Mexican workers) should:

  • Identify all potential IP assets
  • Register existing IP in Mexico to ensure it's protected
  • Review all employment and work contracts to ensure they specify if creating inventions or works is part of the working relationship
  • Make sure IP rights are duly assigned, if applicable (more on this below)

Frequently asked questions about IP law in Mexico

Who owns IP in Mexico: employee or employer?

The bottom line: in Mexico, IP belongs to the person who invented it, unless they have an employment or work agreement with an employer that specifies that inventing or creating IP is part of their job. The onus is on employers to make sure their work contracts specify this so they own all the IP their employees and contractors create.

What is a PIIA agreement?

A PIIA agreement refers to a "Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement." It is a legal contract commonly used in business settings to protect a company's confidential and proprietary information, as well as to address intellectual property rights.

The purpose of a PIIA agreement is to establish the rights and obligations of both the company and the individual employee or contractor regarding the use, disclosure, and ownership of confidential information and inventions. The agreement typically requires the signing party to keep the company's proprietary information confidential, not to disclose it to third parties without proper authorization, and not to use it for personal gain or the benefit of competing businesses.

What is a CIIA agreement?

A CIIA, or Confidential Information and Invention Assignment, is just another name for a Proprietary Information and Inventions Assignment (PIIA). Some other names this type of agreement may go by include:

  • Employee Confidentiality and Inventions Assignment Agreement
  • Proprietary Information Agreement
  • Employee Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement
  • Protection of Company Interests Agreement

Are PIIAs and NDAs the same thing?

No, although they may contain some similar provisions and serve overlapping purposes. An NDA is a broader document that can be used in various contexts. Its primary purpose is to protect confidential information shared between parties. An NDA can be between businesses, individuals, or a combination of both. It is commonly used when parties want to share sensitive information with each other while maintaining its confidentiality.

A PIIA primarily focuses on protecting a company's proprietary information, trade secrets, and intellectual property. It may also include assignment clauses that establish the employer as the owner of any IP that's modified or created during an employee or contractor's work arrangement.

What is an IP assignment agreement?

An IP assignment agreement, also known as an Intellectual Property assignment agreement, is a legal contract used to transfer ownership of intellectual property (IP) rights from one party to another. An IP assignment agreement is typically used when an individual or entity (assignor) wants to transfer their IP rights to another individual or entity (assignee). This agreement ensures that the assignee receives full ownership and control over the assigned IP, while the assignor relinquishes their rights and claims to the intellectual property.

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Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: March 26, 2024

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The Rippling Team

Global HR, IT, and Finance know-how directly from the Rippling team.