Philippines bridging gender gap, preserving cultural heritage

By Amanda Carlota, Federis & Associates
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Coinciding with World IP Day, National Intellectual Property Month in the Philippines in April was themed “Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity.” In line with this theme, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) partnered with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Philippine Textile Research Institute to promote women’s contributions to fashion by exhibiting locally made fabrics and accessories at the prestigious annual Gawad Yamang Isip IP awards.

These partnerships are just the latest of continuing IPOPHIL initiatives geared towards women, such as the Juana Patent and Juana Design Protection Incentive Programmes, and the Juana Make a Mark Programme, offering reduced or waived filing fees for women entrepreneurs and inventors, and women-led enterprises.

Such programmes are crucial in bridging the innovation gender gap.

Amanda Carlota, Federis & Associates, Philippines, US boost collaboration in IP enforcement
Amanda Carlota
Federis & Associates Law Office

According to global data of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the Philippines recorded the second-highest number of women inventors filing applications through the patent co-operation treaty international patent system in 2022. But despite this impressive feat, they accounted for only 38% of applications coursed through the IPOPHIL. Based on current trends, the WIPO expects to achieve gender parity in patenting by 2061.

Overall, IP filings in the Philippines are on the rise, hitting an all-time high in 2022, when the IPOPHIL received a total of 48,259 applications for different types of IP, representing a 3.7% increase from the previous year.

Trademark and patent applications and copyright registrations all reached record highs, with trademarks once again comprising the bulk of filings. However, filings for utility models and industrial designs were declined.

The IPOPHIL director general, Rowel Barba, attributed the overall increase to a “more upbeat economy”, reflected by GDP growth of 7.6% in 2022 and driven by the wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, financial and insurance activities, and manufacturing.

For 2023, the IPOPHIL is targeting a 10% increase in IP filings. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement, as piracy and counterfeiting remain pressing concerns. The IPOPHIL estimates that PHP38.2 billion (USD700 million) was lost to video piracy in 2022 and, if left unchecked, the number could go up to USD1 billion by 2027.

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation recently seized more than PHP50 million worth of counterfeit luxury goods in a single raid of the Greenhills Mall in San Juan, Metro Manila.

In addition to providing more opportunities to women and other under-represented sectors, the IPOPHIL has also taken steps to preserve the Philippines’ cultural heritage by establishing a sui generis regime, the Geographical Indications Rules and Regulations.

Previously, a locally made product with a quality, reputation or other characteristics essentially attributable to its geographical origin and/or human factors could only be protected by registering it as a collective trademark. This was the case for mangoes from the province of Guimaras, T’Nalak fabric hand-woven by the Tau Sebu people of South Cotabato, and various goods made from the pili nut tree endemic to the Bicol region.

But under the new rules and regulations that took effect in November 2022, such products can now be registered as geographical indications.

Application for registration is limited to:

  1. Producers directly involved in the extraction, production or manufacture of goods sought to be protected;
  2. Government agencies or local government units whose area of responsibility covers the geographical origin of the goods; and
  3. Organisations, associations or indigenous cultural communities or peoples specifically entrusted with regulating and/or protecting geographical indications.

Unlike trademarks, which must be renewed periodically, a registered geographical indication is protected for an unlimited term, unless revoked by the registrar. The rules provide five grounds for revocation of such protection, namely: conditions for protection not fulfilled; change in geographical origin of goods determining their quality, reputation or characteristics; the applicant or registrant has no effective control on the use of geographical indication or a production of goods; registration was obtained through false statements or documents; or the geographical indication became generic, or common or customary name, for goods prior to the granting of protection.

To date, the Bureau of Trademarks has put together a list of 31 potential geographical indications, the most recent additions being ube kinampay (purple yam) and asin tibook (sea salt) from the province of Bohol.

AMANDA CARLOTA is an associate lawyer at Federis & Associates Law Office

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