Director General Josephine Santiago’s experience in the intellectual property system spans two decades in government and the private realm. She became the fourth director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) in October 2015. Leaders League caught up with this IP figurehead.
LEADERS LEAGUE. IP filings both from Filipinos and foreign nationals saw an increase of 15% in the Philippines in 2018. How do you explain this increase?
Josephine Santiago. The increase in IP filings is the result of purposeful efforts to make the Philippine IP system relevant and responsive to the needs of both Filipinos and foreign filers through programs and projects that emphasize the importance of IP protection, such as:
• Propelling IP consciousness and utilization among universities and research and development institutions through the Innovation and Technology Support Offices Program
• Increasing to 15 the number of IP satellite offices in 14 strategic regions in the country for ease of access to IP services and promoting awareness and relevance of IP.
• Strengthening IP advocacy campaigns through the creation of an Advocacy and Communication Unit that uses both traditional media, social media, increasing participation in exhibits and similar events; and undertaking IP-focused activities to reach as many Filipinos as possible, including young students and family members.
• Making it easy to lodge applications through online filing systems and facilitate prosecution thereof through streamlined procedures. The IPOPHL has been leveraging its bilateral agreements with other IP offices for the adoption of information technology based systems to do this. In streamlining procedures, the IPOPHL has successfully initiated a “Design in 5 Days” project and in the area of trademarks, where initial actions on applications can be made in five days.
• Our multi-lateral and bilateral partners to inform them of new developments in the IP system in the country. In fact, one country with a notable increase in IP filings is China, which used to have very negligible filings with the office.
Do you intend to enhance intellectual property rights through further international treaties and conventions?
Before deciding to accede to treaties and conventions, IPOPHL makes a thorough assessment of how such treaties and conventions can accelerate the granting of IP rights and enhance the benefit that internal stakeholders get from these agreements. I believe one of the crucial tasks at hand among the IP community, more than crafting another treaty or convention, is to make an assessment of the existing treaties in terms of their usefulness, shortfall and necessary enhancements so that countries will be properly guided. In the case of the Philippines, we have just acceded to the Marrakesh Treaty because we believe that this will greatly help Filipinos who are blind, have visual impairment or are
print disabled. We are also in the process of evaluating the Hague Agreement. Accession is one of our commitments under the ASEAN IPR Action Plan 2016-2025.
Is counterfeiting/piracy a major issue in the country? What action has been taken to fight it?
Enforcement will always be an enduring challenge. Technological development is faster than legal structures and standard setting. Added to this, counterfeiting and piracy will continue to be a concern of the global IP community as long as countries that are sources of counterfeit and pirated goods do not strictly adopt rules to make it difficult or harder for counterfeit and pirated products to leave their shores. To address the issue in the Philippines, we have adopted a holistic approach to IP enforcement. The approach is composed of:
• Education: all the major stakeholders are targeted, i.e. IP owners and users (public) IP enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Customs, among others; the judiciary for transparent and consistent decisions on IP cases and the prosecutors for efficient IP case build-up.
• Improvements in the legal environment - Constant review and filing amendments to the IP Code and other IP-related laws to address emerging issues and concerns.
• Establishment of a coordinating body on IP enforcement - A National Committee on intellectual property rights composed of 12 member agencies that are involved in IP enforcement was created virtue of Executive Order 736. IPOPHL does the coordinating work for the Committee. We are now seeing the benefits of such an approach as the Philippines was designated as country champion in enforcement in ASEAN.
How important is it to be part of a regional association such as ASEAN in the context of IP rights development in the country?
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed to promote economic, political and security cooperation among the member states to promote regional stability. As such, it commands
greater influence on economic, political and security issues than any of the member nations can achieve individually. Developing regional IP platforms and infrastructure to create and expand an inclusive ASEAN IP ecosystem is critical to achieving regional harmonization and cooperation. It aims to serve not only the needs of member states but also in dealing with dialogue partners. For the Philippines, this is essential as the country participates in intra-trade with other ASEAN countries and in negotiations with dialogue partners. It gives the country an advantage of being integrated in global trade backed up with a strong regional bloc.
Interview by Camille Guével