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IPOPHL Interview: The view from the Philippines

Josephine Rima Santiago, the new Director General of IPOPHL, spoke with Stephy Tang about enforcement and her attempts to reduce backlogs

Josephine Rima Santiago was appointed as the new Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) seven months ago. Previously, she was the Deputy Director General of IPOPHL and the Director of Technology Application and Promotion at the Institute of the Department of Science and Technology.

Santiago recalled her first 100 days at IPOPHL were spent in orientation, where she had to absorb the nitty-gritty of all the programs and projects as soon as possible and address any urgent issues left unsolved before she was on board. “During my first few days as the Director General, I lost no time meeting key officials of each of the IPOPHL bureaus while reacquainting myself with their core functions and operational systems, as those have evolved since my previous tenure as Deputy Director General from 1999 to 2002,” she says.

In response to the promulgation of Office Order No 13-170 in 2013, the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Office was established to receive complaints about IP violations and to take action against counterfeiters. There has been positive feedback about its effective approach to filing complaints, coordinating among enforcement agencies, and reducing the possibilities for corrupt officers to request bribes.

The IPOPHL has also been dedicated to fighting fake products in the country. A recent campaign has seen the destruction of counterfeits worth PhP 9.3 billion (USD 200 million) in Cabuyao, Laguna, initiated by a joint effort of the Bureau of Customs, IPOPHL and the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights.

The Director General is confident she can maintain the progress made by the country in IP enforcement. “We will continue to cultivate a culture of respect for IP in the country. We do our best to enable IPR owners to fully enjoy the rewards and benefits of their IP assets, and to protect consumers from substandard products,” she says. “This hopefully will serve as an incentive for inventors to continue creating high quality goods and services.”

INTA’s new representative office in Singapore looks forward to working closely with Santiago on issues in the region.

In addition to strengthening the enforcement capability, another priority for IPOPHL is to reduce backlogs and accelerate turnaround time. “One of our resolutions to is to modernize the IT infrastructures and deploy user-friendly online platforms to make it easier and more efficient to avail of our services,” says Santiago. IPOPHL has more than 340 staff, including 30 trademark examiners, 63 invention examiners and a handful of examiners taking care of industrial designs and utility models.

Last month, the Office launched an enhanced version of the trademark online filing system which was deployed in 2005. The new system, eTMfile, introduces several new features, including the online submission of documents and payments, auto generation of statement of account and acknowledgement of receipt, and an auto assist in trademark classification.

“Next in the pipeline is the e-filing system for industrial designs and utility models, which is expected to be launched in the second half of this year. The e-filing system for inventions will be launched in 2017,” she adds.

It is four years since the Philippines joined the Madrid Protocol, and the Director General has observed an annual increase of 20% to 30% in the number of overseas filings with IPOPHL. New filers account for 80% among the Madrid filers in the past four years. “The figures are likely to infer that accession to the Madrid Protocol has had a positive impact on Philippine ­business,” she says. 

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