These days it is hard to think of a company that is not somehow linked to intellectual property rights. Even thesmallest companies can identify a link to intellectual property rights in some manner, either through their use of atrademark to identify their products or services, or because, over the passage of time, they have developed theirown technologies that will eventually be the source of new inventions. In any case, it is always a good idea toadopt measures to adequately protect and administer these intangible rights from the start, given that, with thepassage of time, they may become vital sources of competitive advantages or fundamental to the value of thecompany. It is difficult to properly grow a company without a corporate culture that understands and valuesintellectual property rights and knows, in general terms, the proceedings and institutions in charge of protectingsuch rights. The absence of this type of corporate culture is a serious competitive risk for any company. Insimple terms, companies are in search of markets they intend to invest in, beginning at a local level, followed bya national level, and, on occasion, transcending borders, either by importing or exporting goods and services, allwhich must always be attuned to the corporate culture on intellectual property. Otherwise, it is possible that acompany will be at a competitive disadvantage as a result of not protecting its intellectual property.Unfortunately, many companies do not deal with these issues until they are involved in costly and cumbersomelitigation due to their refusal to consider the strategic value of intellectual property rights during the company’sdevelopment. As a result, the adoption of a strategy with respect to intellectual property rights represents afundamental first step in the development and growth of the company, in addition to serving as an effective andpreventive defense for fundamental company assets.
Any company that hires Mexican employees or foreigners in Mexico should be cautious with the implementationof necessary documentation related to such hiring. To begin with, it is important to take into consideration thatMexican labor laws are designed to protect the rights of Mexican workers, regardless of whether such workersare of Mexican or foreign nationality and the problems that may result. Article 123 of the Constitution of theUnited Mexican States and the Federal Labor Law (LFT, for its acronym in Spanish) establish minimum rights,none of which may be waived. Therefore, any agreement that minimizes these rights can be held null and void.As a result, the individual employment agreement is the proper document that employers and employees shouldexecute in order to evidence the employment conditions. It is important to note that the fact that companies havenot executed individual employment agreements with their employees does not deprive the employees of thelegal rights that arise from their performance of services. The following are the minimum conditions that shouldbe granted to Mexican employees or foreigners working in Mexico: (i) Salaries may not be less than theminimum wages established by the National Minimum Salary Commission; (ii) The work schedule may beagreed to by the parties without exceeding legal limits; the types of schedules are: a) day shift (between 6:00amand 8:00pm), with a maximum duration of 8 hours daily or 48 hours per week; b) night shift (between 8:00pmand 6:00am), with a maximum duration of 7 hours daily or 42 hours per week; and c) mixed shift (consists ofwork periods during the day and night shifts, as long as the night part of the shift is less than three and half hours,(given that if such is exceeded, it would be deemed a night shift), with a duration of 7.5 hours daily or 45 hoursper week. During a continuous work shift, the employee should be given at least a half hour break, and such maybe used freely (usually to eat); (iii) Employees should have one paid day off each week for every 6 days of work,generally on Sundays. If an employee works on Sunday but has another day off during the week, he shall receive25% as an additional bonus, in addition to his salary. This is known as a Sunday bonus; (iv) Employees shouldhave the mandatory days off, as well as holidays. When employees work on the weekly day off or on mandatory days off as indicated by the LFT, they should receive double their salary for their service on such day, in additionto their corresponding salary; (v) Employees should receive an annual Christmas bonus that should be paid beforeDecember 20th of each year and must not be less than 15 days of salary; (vi) Employees should receive theannual vacation days that will be granted depending on their time of service with the company. Furthermore,vacations other than those provided for by the LFT may be agreed to, as long as vacation days are not fewer thanthose provided by the LFT; (vii) Employees should receive a vacation bonus for the days they are on vacation,which cannot be less than the percentage established in the LFT (25%); (viii) Employees have the right to annualprofit sharing consisting of a percentage equal to 10% of the profits generated by the company during thecorresponding fiscal year, in accordance with the term of the Income Tax Law; (ix) Employees have the right tobe trained in accordance with the terms of the plans and programs established by the company. Companies mayagree to additional benefits other than those established by the LFT, such as grocery vouchers, fuel vouchers,automobile use, bonuses, savings fund, etc., and such should also be paid in the manner agreed to by the parties.In addition to the minimum employment conditions established by the LFT, other obligations exist and must bemet when hiring employees, such as welfare obligations, including: a) the obligation to register employees withthe Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) and pay the corresponding fees in order to allow employees toreceive health benefits and a retirement pension; b) the obligation to contribute on a bi-monthly basis to theRetirement Savings System (SAR, for its acronym in Spanish) two percent (2%) of the IMSS base salary; and c)the obligation to provide housing for workers by contributing bi-monthly to the Federal Institute for WorkerHousing Fund (INFONAVIT, for its acronym in Spanish) five percent (5%) of the IMSS base salary. Lastly,pregnant women have various rights, including the following: a) six weeks off prior to and after delivery whilereceiving their entire salary; and b) while the mother is nursing, two break periods of a half an hour each to nursethe child in a proper location designated and provided by the company.
Real property owners must constantly enter into agreements for the construction of improvements, includingbuildings, warehouses, offices, etc., in which case the work is carried out by contractors, through their employeesor sub-contractors. By law, such contractors are responsible for compliance with the employee-employerobligations related to their contracted personnel and employees arising from the corresponding project. Inaddition to the real property owner’s risk of being considered a substitute employer of the employees of itscontractor, given that the source of employment and beneficiary of the services is precisely the real property ofthe owner, there is also a risk related to non-compliance with the employee-employer fees that must be paid to theMexican Social Security Institute (IMSS, for its acronym in Spanish). In relation to such, the Social SecurityLaw and the Mandatory Social Security Regulation for Construction Employees for Specific Work and Timeestablish that the owners of the work and improvements are considered employers for purposes of compliancewith such employer-employee fees due to the IMSS. This signifies a direct risk for the real property owner in theevent that the contractors do not comply with their social security obligations. Therefore, it is very important todraft and execute legally binding agreements with respect to the services that will be provided by the contractorsthat include clauses aimed at protecting the real property owner and removing such owner from the employmentrelationship with the contractors’ employees. Furthermore, it is also very important to verify the contractors’compliance with employee-employer obligations, including IMSS obligations, by obtaining a release documentissued by the IMSS certifying compliance, or, if applicable, the report on fulfillment of obligations presented tothe IMSS. Moreover, it is also important to protect the real property owner until the previously indicated releaseis obtained, by means of holding on to retainage or requiring a bond that covers liabilities. In both cases, theamount should be adequate for the project, and such should only be released once compliance is demonstrated bythe contractor and/or subcontractor.
Recently, the First Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN, for its acronym in Spanish)published the legal decision, pursuant to conflicting court opinions, number 1a./J. 85/2011 (9a.) titled,“Promissory note with successive and accelerated maturity. Payable as of the business day following the date ofthe payment installment that was not covered by the obligor” in the Weekly Federal Court Gazette. In suchopinion, the First Chamber of the SCJN held that promissory notes with successive maturities may not be heldpayable on demand. Thus, the provisions of article 79 of the General Law on Negotiable Instruments and CreditTransactions (LGTOC, for its acronym in Spanish), which establish that documents with successive maturitydates shall be payable on demand, do not apply. The SCJN established that this would violate the literal meaningof promissory notes, based on the principle that the parties to the promissory note have already agreed that suchnote would be payable at a certain time. Additionally, the SCJN determined that the terms for computing penaltyinterest (based on accelerated maturity of promissory notes due to default with respect to an installment paymentpreviously agreed to) shall be computed as of the business day following the due date of the installment paymentindicated in the promissory note.. The above is in accordance with the provisions of article 81 of the LGTOC,which establishes that in order to compute the legal terms, the day on which the document was executed shall notbe considered.
Following up on the article published in the previous edition on Economic Complementation Agreement No. 55between MERCOSUR and Mexico (“ACE 55”), we reported that Mexico decided to agree to a renegotiation withBrazil. As a result, on March 19, 2012, Brazil and Mexico signed the Fourth Additional Protocol to Appendix II“On Commerce in the Automotive Sector between Brazil and Mexico” to ACE 55, agreeing to establishmaximum quotas or limits on annual importations of lightweight automotive vehicles for the period from March19, 2012 through March 18, 2015. Mexico chose to the ACE 55 Agreement and, as a result, allowed thisrestriction on free trade of automotive vehicles to continue, but establishing a direct assignment of import quotasmechanism which has been agreed to by Mexican assembly plants which will share up to 1.45 million dollars intariff free exports to Brazil in the first year. Nissan has already announced plans to accelerate investment in anew plant in Rio de Janeiro, an example of the problems that the restriction presents to the Mexican automotivesector. Now, Mexico is also facing pressure from Argentina to renegotiate the conditions agreed to by bothcountries for the automotive sector under the same agreement, based on the same arguments and strategyemployed by Brazil. Under ACE 55, Mexico currently has a $693 million dollar surplus in its balance of tradewith Argentina, and Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy has openly stated his opposition to any renegotiationwith Argentina.