Philippine government proposes new IPR laws

Facing mounting piracy, country unveils set of proposed rules to facilitate faster and more efficient resolution of court cases involving intellectual property rights.

MANILA--With counterfeit goods growing across all industries, especially in the consumer electronics sector, the government has proposed a new set of rules for the speedy and efficient resolution of intellectual property rights (IPR) cases.

Director-general Adrian Cristobal Jr. of IP Office of the Philippines (IP Philippines), the local government agency overseeing the country's IPR, presented the draft rules to Supreme Court chief justice Reynato Puno at the IPR Week 2009 conference here Monday.

In his speech, Puno said the high tribunal would "review and act" on the proposal in the soonest possible time, adding that the rules may be "piloted" in one or a few courts to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness.

The chief magistrate said he had asked IP Philippines last year to study the existing rules and assess how these can be modified and improved to hasten the process of IPR-related litigation. "I understand that many contributed to this [proposal]: lawyers engaged in IPR practice, customs and enforcement officers, prosecutors, IP owners, and of course, judges. That you were all able to agree on something is a remarkable achievement in itself," Puno said.

As of July 2009, the number of IP cases in the country clocks at over 500, most of which are in Metro Manila, he said.

The resolution of court cases in the Philippines is notoriously slow, particularly in the field of IP, where most lawyers and judges are still grappling with rapid changes in legal and technology trends. This has led to piles of unresolved lawsuits and upsurge in IP violations, notably in the IT sector, where the piracy rate in the Philippines has stayed at 69 percent in the last two years, according to figures from IDC and Business Software Alliance.

David Blakemore, executive director of non-profit group IPR Business Partnership Asia-Pacific, said the country's piracy problem has taken a new face lately with low-end brands being blatantly copied as well.

"It used to be high-end labels were the only ones being imitated. Now, piracy is becoming prevalent across different industries, from zippers to motorcycles to medicines," Blakemore said in an interview, on the sidelines of the conference.

Cristobal said the proposed rules were intended to improve litigation proceedings, but without compromising the country's obligations under the Trade-Related Aspects of IPR (TRIPS) multilateral agreement, outlined by the World Trade Organization.

"[The proposed laws] are not complicated or costly, and do not entail unreasonable time limits," he explained. "In practical terms, these would translate into efficient litigation and consistent decision-making by the courts."

According to Cristobal, the special rules carry five major features:

  • Designation of selected commercial courts in Metro Manila as special IP courts to try violations of IPR nationwide;
  • Streamlining the litigation process for efficiency and expediency, which include prohibiting a number of pleadings, submission of affidavits in question and answer form, and shortening waiting periods;
  • Destruction of counterfeit goods and making judgments immediately executory;
  • Technical advice and assistance for IP courts; and
  • As an alternative to adjudication, parties are allowed to go into mediation while authorizing judges conduct judicial dispute resolution.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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