IPOPHL Rationalises Guidelines that Push Innovation Hubs To Bring Genuine Innovation Impact

Published on August 23, 2019

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has encouraged its Innovation and Technology Support Office (ITSO) partners to heighten their focus and research efforts toward potential inventions that are genuinely innovative, novel, and responsive to the needs of the greater society. 

At the Presidents' Summit 2019, held on Aug. 19, Monday, at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City, the IPOPHL and ITSOs looked back on how the decade-old partnership has flourished into a key piece in bridging the inventions of innovators into the market. 

"We had envisioned the ITSOs to contribute to the country’s economic and technological development by enabling them: 1) to deliver better quality research outputs through patent search; 2) to strategically protect their IPs; and 3) to utilize and commercialize their IPs so that they contribute to the economic development of their communities," read IPOPHL Director-General Jospehine R. Santiago's key address, as delivered by IPOPHL Deputy Director-General Teodoro C. Pascua. 

While the IPOPHL has successfully attained establishing 85 ITSOs all over the country, DG Santiago believes that "we still need to do more, not solely for the sake of Global Innovation Index (GII) rankings but for the sake of the Filipino people who need a better life."

In the 2019 GII, a report which captures the multi-dimensional facets of innovation in 129 economies, the Philippines zoomed to 54th from 73rd a year ago. The massive jump placed the country to be part of the 42% leading innovative economies, marking a huge improvement from the past four years when it has annually been within the 60% top innovation drivers.

ITSOs, as innovation hubs, have impacted the country's rankings in that it bolstered the IPOPHL's visibility, especially in the countryside which is proving to have a great deal of untapped potential in contributing to the national economy. 

ITSOs are based in universities, colleges, other higher educational institutions (HEIs), and research and development (R&D) institutions that were initially envisioned to house patent libraries where budding innovators can be guided in their patent searches. Through the years, however, IPOPHL has put effort and resources into building the capacities of ITSOs to enable them to shepherd innovators, inventors, and creative minds throughout their IP journey—from IP awareness to IP creation, protection, and utilization or commercialization, including IP management.

In fact, the IPOPHL’s management of ITSOs, also known as Technology Innovation Support Centers (TISCs) in the international IP scene, has been lauded by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as a global model that several other economies should mirror. 

WIPO has also welcomed the IPOPHL’s initiative to reinvigorate ITSOs with a new and improved management approach, a move anticipated to once again make the IPOPHL a benchmark for other countries in the steering of their TISCs.  

The need for an ITSO 2.0

At the Presidents' Summit, the IPOPHL presented its proposed adjustments to the guidelines and objectives under its nearly decade-old terms with its ITSO-partners. The reengineering of the ITSO framework will position these innovation hubs to make more profound shifts toward developments in line with the rapid technological advancements in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Among the most impactful amendments to be proposed to the agencies overseeing the quality of higher education is adjusting the accreditation point system in a way that encourages filings of patent inventions over utility models (UMs). 

UMs are considered "minor "patent inventions in that they introduce upgrades to existing products that do not fall under the stringent criteria of patentability but, nevertheless, may have an essential role in the innovation landscape of a smaller society. It may be any useful machine, implement, tools, product, composition, process, improvement or part of the same. Besides having an easier application and examination system, UMs have a shorter protection term of seven years from the date of filing. 

Meanwhile, patent inventions are grants issued by the government through the IPOPHL. It is an exclusive right granted for a product, process or an improvement of a product or process which meets the Office's stringent novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability criteria. Patent inventions are granted a protection term of 20 years from filing. 

The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 puts premium in the effective and vibrant intellectual property system as being among the barometers of a growing economy. The medium-term plan recognises that output of R&D is commonly measured in terms of patents applied and granted to Filipino residents. It also noted that the number of patent grants is one of the metrics of the excellence of HEIs.

However, the PDP 2017-2022 also recognises that many universities do not have the expertise to market their patent portfolios for commercial use. To address these stumbling blocks to innovation, the IPOPHL proposed the adjustment in the accreditation points system, putting more precedence to patents to UMs—the former being more impactful to society, hence, likely commands more marketable qualities compared to the latter. 

The proposed point system will be presented to accreditation bodies namely the Commission on Higher Education; Department of Budget and Management; Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges & Universities in the Philippines; Association of Local Colleges & Universities Commission on Accreditation; Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges & Universities; Philippine Association of Colleges & Universities' Commission on Accreditation; Philippine Association of State Universities & Colleges; Phillipine Association of Colleges and Universities. 

Other proposed adjustments that aim to further the creativity and innovativeness of ITSOs include: 

- a more careful vetting process in the acceptance of institutions applying to have ITSOs; 

- to better determine the appropriate capacity-building workshops ITSO staff members should participate in based on their skills and competencies; 

- a more organized system where ITSOs are clustered based on their levels of experience and performance; 

- an incentive system that recognises excelling ITSOs; 

- recordation of a pool of IP experts from the ITSO network who prove to have competencies in delivering certain types of services; 

- and the submission of a semi-annual monitoring report to track ITSOs' progress. 

The reshaping and strengthening of these innovation hubs was determined a key strategy in ushering in more Filipino-made technologies that will position the Philippines as an innovation stalwart in the Asia and the Pacific region and beyond. 

"Our country had been dubbed an innovation achiever but we will not stop at that; we need to do more. The lives of millions of Filipinos are at stake here. That’s why the government is intensifying its support in R&D and technology transfer, and ITSOs will be a crucial part in making genuine innovations happen," DG Santiago added.