The intellectual property system: a brief history


The Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines was signed into law 22 years ago today and became effective on January 1,1998. But did you know the intellectual property system in the Philippines existed before the country even declared itself an independent state?


The Spanish Law on Intellectual Property, approved on January 10,1879 and came into force in 1880, was the first known copyright law in the Philippines. Under Spanish laws, copyright is deemed as a property right and  governed by civil law but with special legislative provisions.


On patents, even if historical records can’t confirm when the Spanish patent law of 1826 was administered and adopted in the Philippines, some royal decrees pertaining to the colonies passed in that period, saw the question of patents placed under the jurisdiction of ordinary tribunals in the Philippines. Patent applications from the Philippines had to be sent to Spain for examination and grant.


Following the outbreak of the Philippine revolution in 1896 and the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the European country and the United States to formalise the end of hostilities. 


The Treaty of Paris, signed in December of 1898 ended 300 years of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines, and dictated the cessation of the Philippines and Guam from Spanish dominion to the American colonial order.


Article 13 of the Treaty of Paris specifically made mention of the existent intellectual property system in the Philippines:


The rights of property secured by copyrights and patents acquired by Spaniards in the Island of Cuba and in Porto Rico, the Philippines and other ceded territories, at the time of the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, shall continue to be respected…


In 1913, the Philippine legislature passed Act No. 2235 making United States’ patent laws applicable in the Philippines. 

Act No. 3134,  entitled, "An Act to Protect Intellectual Property” was passed in 1924,  making it the main intellectual property law in effect until after Philippine independence from the US in 1945. Act. No. 3134 was based on the U.S. Copyright Law of 1909.


As a newly independent state, the Philippines enacted two laws strengthening the IP system in: Republic Act 165 and Republic Act 166, establishing a patent office and allowing for registration and protection of trade marks, trade names, and service marks respectively, in 1947.


During the Marcos administration, Presidential Decree No. 49, which governed copyright works, was passed and superseded Act No. 3134.


As a politically independent state from the mid-1940s onwards, the Philippines also entered into international conventions that laid out the foundations of the intellectual property system we know today: the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1951), and the Rome Convention of International Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations (1964).


The Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), came into force in 1980, of which the Philippines was already a signatory of since the 1960s.


More significantly, the Philippine Constitution promulgated in 1987 recognised the importance of intellectual property in Article XIV, Section 13: “The State shall protect and secure the exclusive rights of scientists, inventors, artists, and other gifted citizens to their intellectual property and creations, particularly when beneficial to the people, for such period as may be provided by law.”


Later on, as the Philippines progressively became a member of the global community, it also adhered to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in 1995 following its entry into the World Trade Organisation in the same year.


In keeping with its commitment to these international conventions and the Philippine Constitution, the Philippine government consolidated the pending intellectual property laws in 1997, and the efforts led to the passing and enforcement of Republic Act 8293, the Intellectual Property Code in 1998.



Lim, Christoper L. “The Development of Philippine Copyright Law.” Ateneo Law Journal, 46 , ser. 368, 2001.


Sapalo, Ignacio S. Background Reading Material on the Intellectual Property System of the Philippines. World Intellectual Property Organization, 1994.