Despite challenges of the persisting pandemic, 2021 was a good year for IP in the Philippines, which bodes well for 2022. The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has reported that IP filings for 2021 increased year-on-year by 11.6%, to a total of 46,496 – a welcome development after filings across the board dropped in 2020.
As usual, leading the pack were trademarks, which accounted for over 85% of all filings. Trademark applications grew by 12%, with pharmaceuticals, health and cosmetics being the most popular categories. Copyright deposits surged by 123%, the majority of which were literary, scholarly, scientific and artistic works. Utility models filings bounced back dramatically, increasing by 20% after dropping by 45% in 2020. The bulk of the filings were related to food chemistry. Patents also increased, with pharmaceuticals spearheading the 10% growth. Unfortunately, industrial filings continued to decline from the year before.
The overall positive trend aligns with IPOPHL director-general Rowel Barba’s statement from 2020, in which he expressed hope that the opening up of the economy and vaccine rollout would encourage fresh investment in IP in 2021.
Barba credited the IPOPHL’s promotional campaigns and upgrading of its services for the general increase. Notably, the agency has managed to take most of its services online. Filings, payments and even services can be made through email or online portals, while mediation sessions and hearings are conducted via video conferencing. Thus, the agency has been able to continue its operations and deliver its services throughout the pandemic despite the ever-changing landscape.
The IPOPHL has also encouraged public participation in its decision-making processes. For instance, in November last year, the agency’s bureau of legal affairs held a public consultation, which was attended by law practitioners from local firms, regarding the draft amendments to the rules and regulations governing inter partes proceedings. The amendments are designed to ensure continuity of the bureau’s operations and streamline its procedures in IP litigation – to make it easier for parties to comply with the requirements. These amendments are slated to take effect in June of this year.
The IPOPHL’s commitment to improvement did not go unrecognised, as the Philippines jumped from 24th to ninth place in the World Trademark Review’s 2021 IP office innovation rankings. It is tied with Spain and Switzerland, ahead of Japan and the US, and the only developing country on the list.
In its 2021 Notorious Markets List, the US Trade Representative also recognised the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR), which is headed by the IPOPHL, for its enforcement efforts. In the report, the US Trade Representative commended the NCIPR’s “positive developments” in anti-counterfeiting, which included the seizure of counterfeit pharmaceutical, medical and luxury goods; partnerships with the International Trademark Association and Asia Video Industry Association; and a memorandum of understanding between brand owners and e-commerce platforms Lazada and Shopee.
The Motion Picture Association has also bestowed the IPOPHL with the “Site-Blocking in Asia Pacific – Government Leadership Award”, in recognition of its efforts to block websites engaging in film piracy. The IPOPHL recently expanded its enforcement office’s powers to include authority to order site-blocking through the National Telecommunications Commission, which has primary jurisdiction over internet service providers.
As part of its continuing anti-piracy efforts, the IPOPHL also recently signed a memorandum of agreement with Japan’s Content Overseas Distribution Association for protection of copyrighted Philippine and Japanese works, and sharing best practices. The agency has additionally signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pharmaceutical Security Institute to stop the sale, supply and consumption of counterfeit medicines, and other pharmaceutical products.
In January, PHP80 million (USD1.56 million) worth of smuggled goods, including counterfeit toys, were seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine Coast Guard from a warehouse in Pandi, Bulacan province. In the same month, PHP150 million worth of counterfeit covid-19 antigen test kits, Chinese herbal medicines, N95 face masks, sports apparel, and luxury bags and accessories were seized by the BOC from a warehouse in San Miguel, Metro Manila.
The BOC also seized PHP30 million worth of counterfeit medicines from storage facilities in Parañaque, Metro Manila. The goods bore the names of popular brands such as Biogesic, Neozep, Bioflu, Immunpro and Ivermectin, among others.
Amanda Carlota is an associate lawyer at Federis & Associates
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