The Philippines is implementing enough reforms to improve its overall intellectual property (IP) protection regime, but enforcement of rules and regulations, as usual, continues to be the issue for many firms, according to a study by an international research group.
The study by England-based Geneva Network, titled “The Importance of Intellectual Property Rights for Progress,” said Southeast Asian states now recognizes the importance of protecting IP rights to their economic and social objectives. Proof to this is Southeast Asian governments’ commitment to reform policies and laws on IP.
However, the study said much has yet to be done and “the strength, scope and efficiency of the IP framework in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines is still well below the highest global standards, despite improvements in recent years.”
Geneva Network’s study claimed the IP protection regime in the Philippines, for one, has been strengthened in recent years. However, the problem lies in the implementation of IP rules that is resulting in the outright violation of these.
“However, weak enforcement continues to be an issue,” the study read.
“IP infringement is not considered to be a serious crime and is, therefore, often a low priority for the authorities and judiciary. Life science patents are becoming more difficult to obtain and there are concerns that compulsory licensing could become more widely used,” it added.
A compulsory license is when a government permits a third party to manufacture a patented product, or process, without the consent of the patent owner.
The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights allows countries to invoke compulsory licenses for any patent, either for domestic production or importation. Compulsory licenses have an extreme impact in the conduct of business of international investors reason few countries invoke it, but Southeast Asian economies make use of it often to reduce medicine costs.
“The Philippines is preparing guidelines that would broaden the scope of compulsory licensing as part of its Cheaper Medicines Act,” the study read.
“The threat and use of compulsory licenses can paradoxically reduce choice in the medicines available and undermine access. If a country regularly resorts to or threatens compulsory licenses, manufacturers will be unlikely to consider it a priority country for the launch of new medicines,” it added.
The study recommended Southeast Asian economies, including the Philippines, to limit the use of compulsory licenses to truly extraordinary circumstances, rather than making them a standard government practice.
Further, the region is asked to raise the awareness of its people on the impact and illegality of online piracy. In the Philippines alone, the entire film industry, valued P11 billion, is losing P1.6 billion yearly to online piracy, excluding losses from counterfeiting of optical media.
In the 2019 International IP Index, the Philippines got a score of 16.20 and placed 37th among 50 economies covered by the study.
It lied in the middle of the six Southeast Asian economies included in the index. Singapore led the region, placing 10th, followed by Brunei Darussalam at 34th, the Philippines, Thailand at 42nd, Vietnam at 43rd and Indonesia at 45th.