The Philippines’ intellectual property system dates back well into the Spanish and American colonial periods, earning the Philippines the reputation as among the first Asian countries to adopt laws on intellectual property.
The following is a brief history of the development of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, and its role in the evolution of the intellectual property system.
1980s – 1997 A first mover in modernisation
The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL)’s immediate predecessor was the Bureau of Patents, Trademarks and Technology Transfer (BPTTT), created via an executive order of President Corazon C. Aquino to re-organise the Department of Trade and Industry. Through this EO, the Philippine Patent Office – a post-independence agency created by President Manuel A. Roxas – was converted to the BPTT, and the Technology Transfer Board (an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry) was abolished, with its functions adopted by the BPTT.
In this decade, the BPTTT slowly expanded, creating a Public Information and Assistance Unit to serve the public’s nascent interest in intellectual property information such as in patents, trademarks, and procedures in registration.
The 1990s saw the increasing significance and advancement of the BPTTT in terms of function and competence: it was chosen as a member of the Inter-agency Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (PIAC-IPR), a project under the Office of the President of the Philippines to scale up promotion and protection of IPR.
The BPTT, notably, became a key advisor in the Philippine government’s negotiation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) under the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade.
Atty. Emma C. Francisco, in 1996, took the reins from Atty. Ignacio S. Sapalo and became the first woman director of the BPTTT.
From the outset, Bureau Director General Emma Francisco enacted a vision of an automated and modernised intellectual property administration system: launching the Trademark Word Search System, with assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency.
1997 – 2004 The IP Code Onwards
In the background of these strategic moves to institutionalise intellectual property administration, the consolidation of intellectual property into legislation was unfolding as well. The Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, Republic Act 8293, authored by the late Senator Raul S. Roco, was signed into law in June 6, 1997 and took effect on January 1, 1998.
With the IP Code of the Philippines enacted, BPTTT was effectively abolished, and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines was instituted. IPOPHL adopted and expanded the functions of the BPTTT, and continued to be led by Atty. Emma Francisco now with the designation of Director General of the IPOPHL.
The office continued the surge towards modernisation, launching the Philpat CD-ROM in 1998, and concluding the Project Type Technical Cooperation for Modernization of Industrial Property Administration agreement with JICA.
It was also in the early 2000s that IT systems for patent administration and patent application retrieval were launched, along with enhancement of capabilities in trademark image search, trademark administration, and internet access to examiners – improving the efficiency of the new agency.
In 2001, the Philippines, through IPOPHL, made strides to keep its intellectual property system adherent to international standards, becoming a member of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and became a contracting party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
2005 – 2009 Intellectual Property as a tool for development
In 2005, the administration of the intellectual property system as well as the office’s function took a developmental approach, with the succession of Atty. Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. as the second Director General.
In this period, a policy/International relations unit was created to enable the agency to take the lead on domestic and international IP policy. The unit produced policy papers, studies, comments on legislation, draft bills pertaining to intellectual property rights and became the main resource of the country’s missions in Geneva and in DTI’s bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations.
Apart from this stronger role in IP policy-creation, the enforcement mandate of the IPOPHL was fortified – it was in 2008 that Inter-agency IP task force, the National Committee on Intellectual Property rights was created via Executive Order 736. IPOPHL led the coordination of this inter-agency body and actively engaged government’s law enforcement sector through the NCIPR in pursuit of counterfeiters and vendors of pirated goods.
These efforts led to the improvement of the Philippines’ standing in the United States Trade Representative Office’s Watch List – from the Priority Watch List to the regular Watch List.
It was also during this stage in the agency’s development that the initiative to craft a National Intellectual Property Strategy (NIPS) was first incepted. The first version of the NIPS was formally presented to President Macapagal Arroyo and launched under the umbrella program of the DOST’s “Filipinnovation,” the country’s innovation strategy.
Signalling IPOPHL’s foresight of the potential of growth areas outside of Metro Manila, in 2008 it turned its eyes towards the provinces and launched the Intellectual Property Fields Operations Unit to establish the Intellectual Property Satellite Offices (IPSOs) to reach out and serve the needs of inventors, IP creators, and entrepreneurs.
This development significantly boosted IP applications and introduced the array of IP services to the uninitiated and untapped provinces outside Metro Manila.
2010 – 2014 Building an IP community
A resurgence in modernisation and continued enforcement campaign and greater engagement with the academic sector defined IPOPHL’s direction under the Director General Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor.
In 2012, IPOPHL began implementation of an efficiency-enhancing system that automated the end-to-end processing of IP applications from from filing to registration, including publications, printing of certificates and post-registration/post-granting.
This was known as the Industrial Property Automation System (IPAS) instituted in partnership with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and revolutionised the processing of IP applications.
ITSOs, or the Innovation and Technology Support Offices were inaugurated at this time, as the IPOPHL aimed to spread its expertise and technical knowledge – particularly in patent drafting and search – to IPOPHL’s partners in the academe and research sectors.
IPOPHL’s coordination and leadership on enforcement matters did not take a backseat to the agency’s other initiatives but rather saw a reinvigoration in this period: IPOPHL secured the support fund of P 10 million from the Office of the President for the National Committee of Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR)’s operational requirements. It was at this time that the IPOPHL seized its biggest haul of counterfeit and pirated goods, with the seized amount reaching P 13 billion.
During this time, IPOPHL also initiated discussions with Greenhills Shopping Center for a development-oriented approach in curbing the continued sales of counterfeit and pirated goods.
2015- present Forging Ahead in the global IP Community
Modernisation of services and facilities continues to be a landmark of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines’ services: in 2016, the array of online filing application facilities were launched to eTMFile, eIDFile and the eUMFile.
In an effort to facilitate and improve the system of classification of goods and services in trademark applications, IPOPHL joined at least 62 other countries and organisations in using TMClass in 2016. The online tool helps users to correctly classifying goods and services when filing a trade mark, and has a function that aids the user translate terms across 42 languages to check compatibility in participating IP offices. IPOPHL was already part of Asean TMClass.
In 2017, the IPOPHL’s effort in building its expertise and proficiency in patent search and examination led to the it gaining unanimous designation by the World Intellectual Property Organisation as the second International Searching Authority/International Preliminary Examination Authority (ISA/IPEA) in Asean. By 2019, it hopes to begin operating as an ISA/IPEA and become the ISA/IPEA of choice of applicants in the region.