IPOPHL notes higher IP violations, urges MSMEs to register

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The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has urged domestic companies to value their brand by ensuring intellectual property protection (IP).

IPOPHL director-general Rowel Barba

IPOPHL director-general Rowel Barba stressed that a company’s brand is a valuable asset and requires IP protection against rising IPO violations. He told a recent online forum that his office has received 80 reports and complaints of IP violations in the first semester of 2020, 66% higher than the 47 reports received in 2019.

Barba appealed to consumers to patronize local original products and support the legitimate MSMEs and businesses who are crying for help from the consuming Filipinos in this time of pandemic.

Anthony Bengzon, IP lawyer at the Bengzon, Negre, Untalan law firm, stressed in the same e-forum that “brand” is not just about the company name, trademark, or logo. “Your brand encompasses a lot more and can include components such as products, business cards, letterheads, presentations, advertising, social media, word of mouth, customer service, uniforms, and packaging,” said Bengzon.

Bengzon suggested that MSMEs should conduct an audit of these brand components in terms of how well they are protected online. He also recommended the creation of a dedicated brand marketing and protection team to shield these components from the many threats existing online. Bengzon added that IP protection is crucial because it is harder to monitor counterfeit products online since you don’t have a physical address or store to go after.

Ma. Sherill Quintana, president of Oryspa Spa Solutions, lamented that many MSMEs fail to appreciate the importance of protecting and valuing their brand, focusing instead on issues such as pricing, production, and delivery. She agreed that a company’s brand is an asset that can help MSMES grow and scale up their operations, go into franchising, and enter export markets.

Quintana advised MSMEs to seek IP protection and build their brand’s equity, which is the commercial value derived from consumer perception of the product’s brand name, rather than from the product itself.

For her part, Ma. Alegria Sibal-Limjoco, chair of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), called on MSMEs to register their brands with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The WIPO is a United Nations agency that provides global IP registration and protection services across different countries.

Limjoco explained that brands have to be protected because they can be even more valuable than other properties since they can bring in billions in sales. Many micro companies have become success stories in foreign markets because they have IP protection, she said. Conversely, there have also been losers for failing to protect their brand and allowing others to infringe on their rights.

In his presentation, Peter Willimott, senior program officer at WIPO, urged companies to register with the Madrid System, a convenient and cost-effective solution for registering and managing trademarks worldwide. He added that registering a brand is not just for big companies but is just as relevant for MSMEs who want to get their brand outside of the Philippines.

“The Philippines is a very important market for Filipino MSMEs, but there’s a whole world out there and if the product or service has popularity in the Philippines then it would be popular in other markets,” Willimott added.

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