Intellectual Property Office Phils.

MANILA – The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) is calling on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to protect their intellectual property (IP) rights in order to gain or maintain a competitive edge even amid a crisis.

IPOPHL Director General Rowel Barba urged MSMEs to explore and take advantage of the IP system, citing its multi-pronged developmental purposes which includes equipping businesses to gain a stronger market position.

“The IP system is a wide and rich array of sources for establishing competitiveness. For businesses capitalizing on innovative products, you can leverage the patent system which protects inventions, utility models and industrial designs. For the creative industry, we have the copyright system to protect your literary pieces, artworks, software, among many other artistic works. And for protecting your brand name to distinguish you from your competitors, we have trademarks,” Barba said in a statement.

He said protection means that works meet the legal standards for owners to have temporary rights to profit exclusively from these intellectual properties.

“And when your rights as exclusive owner are violated, you have the legal upper hand to discontinue their infringing acts and even demand monetary damages, among other remedies accorded to you by your bundle of IP rights,” he added. “Having exclusive rights allows you to make headway into the market faster and easier as they clear your road to success of unfair competitors who steal and profit from your intellectual creations.”

Barba encouraged MSMEs to optimize IPOPHL programs that are designed specifically to help their sector grow.

Among these programs are the Juana Make a Mark Program which waives trademark application fees for MSMEs founded by a woman or a group with at least one woman as a member; the Inventor Assistance Program which provides free legal advice on patent applications and free basic seminars on patent search and drafting; the IP Depot, an online marketplace where MSMEs can market their IP-protected products for free; and free basic IP lessons which are now made available online in light of the pandemic.

To boost support for MSMEs, IPOPHL will soon partner with the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Philippine Trade Trading Center-Global MSME Academy, the national center of MSME training.

Under the partnership, the two agencies under the DTI will work together to assist MSMEs in developing their IP strategies.

An IP strategy involves identifying which components of the IP spectrum is most suitable for a business to leverage, given their product or service offerings and operations, and how they can best safeguard their IP rights once granted by IPOPHL.

Having an IP strategy will enable MSMEs to be more profitable and more attractive to investors who can provide them with capital — crucial especially as MSMEs commonly deal with limited access to financing, as aggravated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis.

Filing activities at IPOPHL are largely driven by MSMEs.

From 2015 to 2019, the average annual share of MSMEs to IP filings stood at 78 percent for inventions; 77 percent for trademarks; 75 percent for utility models; and 68 percent for industrial designs. (PNA)