IPR protection in the ASEAN
The fastest-growing sub-sector in the Philippine economy over the past 5-1/2 years — 2014 to the first half of 2019 — is intellectual property products, under Capital Formation (or private investments). It was growing at 28% per year, with capital formation growing at 14% and GDP at 6.3%.
And this points to the need to further protect intellectual property rights (IPR) because they are easier to copy and counterfeit, unlike physical property.
The Philippines is not ranked high globally when it comes to innovation and IPR-related businesses. See this result from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) annual report, the Global Innovation Index (GII).
In WIPO’s GII, “Knowledge creation” includes patents and industrial design by origin, and “Intangible assets” include trademarks and industrial design by origins.
In the overall innovation index, the Philippines ranked 54th out of 126 countries and jurisdictions, and lower in knowledge creation and intangible assets (See table 1).
Then in the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) International IP Index 2019 report, the Philippines ranked 37th out of 50 countries covered.
Low or poor IPR protection means there are more fakes, counterfeits, smuggled and illicit products passing around and sold.
True enough, in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Illicit Trade Environment Index (GITEI) 2018 Report, the Philippines ranked 64th out of 84 countries covered. GITEI measures how countries and economies enable (or inhibit) illicit trade through their policies to fight smuggling and illicit trade and the index is composed of four main categories or indicators, each of which have sub-indicators — government policy, supply and demand, transparency and trade, and the customs environment (See Table 2).
So the recent fast growth of IP products means there is some catching up going around in the Philippines, which is good.
In the new 18th Congress, House Bill 1597 by Congressmen Michael L. Romero and Enrico A. Pineda was filed, Amending RA 8293 (Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines), increasing penalties and sanctions, rationalizing its power and functions.
The authors say that their bill seeks to “streamline all administrative procedures of registering patents, trademarks and copyright, to liberalize the registration on the transfer of technology, and to enhance the enforcement of IPRs in the Philippines.” Good move then.
On Sept. 24, Geneva Network (UK) and Minimal Government Thinkers (MGT, Manila) will jointly launch a new report, “The Importance of IPR in the ASEAN.” The report will be jointly signed by five independent (non-government) free market think tanks from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, and will be launched in their respective capital cities. Geneva Network is coordinating the study.
And on Oct. 16, the Property Rights Alliance (Washington, DC) will launch the International Property Rights Index (IPRI) 2019 Report in Manila. MGT and the Foundation for Economic Freedom will be the local sponsors of this event. The IPRI annual report measures the degree of respect and protection of both physical and intellectual property of many countries and economies. The Philippines ranked 70th out of 125 countries in IPRI 2018 Report.
At both events, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez will be the keynote speaker. Mr. Lopez is a standout among Cabinet Secretaries of the Duterte administration because of his consistent advocacy for a competitive, innovative, non-bureaucratic economy and ease of doing business. Price control, IPR tweaking and weakening are far out from his work and department agenda.
Keeping the sanctity of private property, physical or intellectual property, is an important ingredient to attract and keep more private investments and job creators, both local and foreign.
Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers.