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Patent infringement

A patent is granted to provide rights and protection to the inventor after an invention is disclosed to the public.

It also seeks to restrain and prevent unauthorized persons from unjustly profiting from a protected invention, including the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the product of his invention during the life of the patent.

Under the Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code (IP Code), a patentable invention is a product or process that provides any technical solution in any field of human activity that is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable.

An invention is not considered new if it already forms part of the domain of prior art. 

An invention involves an inventive step if, having regard to prior art, it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art at the time of the filing date or priority date of the application claiming the invention. 

An invention that can be produced and used in any industry is considered industrially applicable.

The Philippines follows the first-to-file rule in determining who has a better right over a patent.

Patent owners may also give permission to, or license, other parties to use their inventions on mutually agreed terms.

The term of a patent shall be 20 years from the filing date of the application.

One of the oldest patent case in the Philippines involved a farming plow as decided in Vargas v. F. M. Yaptico & Co (GR 14101, September 24, 1919).

Vargas was a farmer who took it upon himself to produce, with the native plow as the model, an improved, adjustable plow. In 1910, he applied for letters patent before the US Patent Office, which was later issued on March 1912. He then filed a certified copy in the Division of Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks of the Philippines Executive Bureau.

The defendant was engaged in the foundry business in Iloilo City, which manufactured plow parts such as points, shares, shoes, and heel pieces adapted to replace worn-out parts of the Vargas plow.

Vargas filed a case to enjoin the alleged patent infringement by the defendant and to recover the damages.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendant who was able to prove his defenses, among others, that for more than two years before the application for the original letters patent, or before July 22, 1908, there was, by the consent and allowance of Vargas, a public use of the invention covered by them.

The Supreme Court said that rude wooden implements for tilling the soil have been in use in the Philippines, possibly not since the Israelites “went down to sharpen every man his share and his coulter,” but certainly for many years. Iron plows called “Urquijo” and “Pony” have been the vogue.

Patent infringement is also the plot of Episode 5 of the Korean series Extraordinary Attorney Woo, which revolves around Woo Young-woo (Park Eun-bin), a neophyte lawyer working at the prestigious Hanbada Law Firm.

Her main challenge in the legal profession is that she has autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The episode is about the legal battle for the patent infringement of the “honesty cassette” in ATM machines that was meant to cut out embezzlement and financial crime.

Her law firm’s client insists that they own the technology while the defendant argued that it belonged to another entity and copied only by their client.

To substantiate their claim, she “fabricated” evidence by coaching the R&D manager (a former theater actor) to become a reference witness that the technology is really theirs.

The court issues an injunction against the rival company, preventing them from selling their products.

The rival company eventually finds an ATM that proves that the technology already existed before Hanbada’s client “developed” theirs.

Unfortunately, their client already won supply contracts with all the banks while the injunction was on, so the eventual cancellation of the injunction doesn’t affect them.

Their client submitted for model utility rights because it wanted to monopolize the industry. 

And she belatedly realized that this was their plan all along.

In Dupont de Nemours. v. IPO (August 31, 2016 GR 174379), the Supreme Court said thata patent is a monopoly granted only for specific purposes and objectives. To balance the public interests involved, failure to comply with strict procedural rules will result in the failure to obtain a patent.

The Court explained that the patent law has a three-fold purpose: “First, patent law seeks to foster and reward invention; second, it promotes disclosures of inventions to stimulate further innovation and to permit the public to practice the invention once the patent expires; third, the stringent requirements for patent protection seek to ensure that ideas in the public domain remain there for the free use of the public.”

Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.

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