Fight for your IP rights
When it comes to intellectual property (IP), what’s in a name?
If you secure your IP rights, that “name”—your trademark, service mark, design, patent, or copyright—is equivalent to your competitive advantage, says Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) Director General Josephine Santiago.
“We are trying our best to spread the awareness, understanding of the relevance of IP in the lives of everyone, from the creators to users,” says Santiago. “The question often asked us is, ‘What does IP do to my life? How relevant is IP? Is that relevant even to my life, to my work, to my career?’ The answer is, definitely yes, because we are surrounded by intellectual property.”
There is underappreciation of IP, Santiago says, despite its constant presence among us—from the time we wake up until we close our eyes at night.
“When you get up to brush your teeth, there’s industrial design in your toothbrush. The contents of your toothpaste could be patented. Then you take a shower, you have your shampoo, lotion and all, these could be patented as well. Then you wear your clothes, you have your favorite brands, your shoes, the makeup you wear—everything,” she says.
In recent years, Santiago says the mandate of IPOPHIL has evolved to improve Filipinos’ awareness of the importance of IP.
Today it has five general mandates, which Santiago has given a catchy acronym: DREAM.
D stands for the developmental work that the IPOPHIL has been doing to promote IP among different sectors.
Those with literary and artistic works, for one, while automatically protected by copyright laws, are encouraged by the IPOPHIL to secure their certificate of deposit of copyright not only to protect their creations, but their livelihood as well.
Micro, small, and medium enterprises have also begun to realize the need to register their trademarks and service marks, which Santiago says could be the reason the IPOPHIL has seen an increase in applications and registrations.
“Trademarks cover the greater part of our work in terms of applications, as well as registration. We are looking at the rise of something like, not less than 10 percent every year [for] applications,” Santiago says.
What Santiago hopes will pick up are patent applications for inventions, which she says are still very low.
“The Philippines is not yet as sophisticated as developed countries, and inventions would entail scientific, technological skills and understanding. Our educational system is not as prepared as advanced countries’. That’s why we have a very large disparity in invention filing. Our local filers would constitute something like 5 to 7 percent only of the entire patent application on the average on an annual basis,” Santiago says.
Through its Innovation, Technology, and Support Offices, the IPOPHIL is reaching out to universities across the country to help students understand IP.
Next on IPOPHIL’s DREAM mandate is R, or regulatory, which Santiago says is the function most people are aware of.
“That’s when you come to us for registration. The creation of the protection of IP [enables you] to give life to your work legally. It’s like a baby’s birth certificate,” she says.
The E and A in DREAM are partners—enforcement and adjucation, Santiago says.
“I call it limited enforcement because our basic function is to coordinate with law enforcement agencies for the enforcement of the IP, which is triggered by complains of the rights holder,” she explains further. “Adjudication, that’s where you file a complaint with our Bureau of Legal Affairs, which functions like a regional trial court, then the appeal may be done through the Office of the Director General, then to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. That’s where we’re strong at—regulatory and adjudication.”
She adds that the most number of complaints they receive concern trademark, while the lowest is on copyright.
Santiago also notes that A stands for awareness, as the IPOPHIL has been strengthening its information campaign on their services. Also in the works is the Intellectual Property Academy and Research Center, an agenda which Santiago says is very important to her.
“For us to pursue systematic and ladderized education of IP, we need [the academy]. It’ll be like university, with basic, intermediate, and advanced or specialized courses,” Santiago says. “We will offer this to all types of sectors including the media, government executives, [and] private sector.”
Lastly, the M mandate is all about making policies on IP, Santiago says.
With IPOPHIL’s DREAM, the agency hopes to realize the dream of “an Intellectual Property-conscious Philippines in a demystified, development-oriented, and democratized IP System by 2020.”
After all, says Santiago, protecting IP rights doesn’t just help the rights holder—it also affects the country’s whole economy.
“There is a large indirect effect to your single work. Say you’re a scriptwriter; for you, what you created is just for the purpose of the production of the film. What about the distribution, cinemas? Then in cinemas you will also have your popcorn girl. So you see the advocacy to create, to innovate is there because of that kind of example,” Santiago says. “The production of one film creates hundreds, thousands of jobs. It has a ripple effect on all.”
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