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Intellectual property filings in the Philippines have been soaring in recent years.

 

Although Covid-19 put a damper on the party in 2020 – the year was the first time since the establishment of the Intellectual Property Office of the Phil-ippines (IPOPHL) in 1998 that the country had seen a decrease in filings across all types of IP – experts are expecting filings to rebound as the country, and the region, begin to develop immunity to the coronavirus and become accustomed to the “new normal.”

 

From January to December 2020, applications for trademarks contracted by 10 percent year-on-year to a total of 35,274, and patents declined by 9 percent to 3,648.

 

“The sluggish flow of IP applications last year, which signify lower commit-ments to new intangible assets, was expected given the economic uncertainties subduing investment appetite,” IPOPHL Director General Rowel Barba said in a statement early this year. “But with the gradual opening up of the economy and the anticipated vaccine rollout, we hope to see more fresh investments in IP assets this year.”

 

Officials in the Philippines are pointing towards the post-financial crisis of 2008 as a potential model for a rebound of filings in the country. At that time, patenting applications dropped immediately following the recession, but experi-enced sharp growth that surpassed pre-global economic crisis rates.

 

“Past global crises have reconstructed industries, eliminating the less ef-ficient firms or compelling a repurposing amongst them while accentuating the competitiveness of the more dynamic and the more agile who recover. And his-torically, those who put research and innovation at the center of their strategies are those who stand and thrive in the face of disruptions,” Barba said in January 2021. “Thus, lower filings may signal a redirection of growth paths, favoring the highly competitive and innovative, rather than stymied innovation,” he said. Lawyers in Manila note that the Philippine Congress has taken steps recently to amend the country’s IP Code through three different bills, House Bills (HB) No. 1597, 8062 and 8620. A working group is expected to receive comments from the public and consolidate the three bills. Changes under discussion in-clude including extending the period of protection from 10 years to 15 years, in-creasing criminal penalties and imprisonment for IP violations, expanding the organizational structure of the IPOPHL from four bureaus to seven bureaus, and granting police powers to the IPOPHL covering pirated and counterfeit products.

 

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Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz (ACCRALAW) has advised Fre-senius Kabi Oncology in defending a patent infringement case filed by Aventis Pharma and its Philippine subsidiary. The firm has also represented Phillips Sea-food Philippines in a patent infringement suit filed by Kanemitsu Yamaoka, the patent holder of a tuna smoking process. Senior partner Alex Ferdinand Fider, partners Victor N. De Leon, John Paul M. Gaba, Richmond K. Lee, Jose Eduar-do T. Genilo and of counsel Aleli Angela G. Quirino and Rogelio Vinluan are top practitioners. The firm   was named the Asia IP trademark firm of the year for the Philippines in 2020. Established in 2009, Baranda & Associates, an affiliated firm of  Rouse, is a specialist IP firm led by managing partner Edmund Jason G. Baranda and partner Claire Corral. The firm provides a full range of services including searching, filing and  registration for trademarks, patents, utility models, designs and copyright; investigations and enforcement; opposition and cancellation; as well as criminal and civil litigation.

 

Bengzon Negre Untalan is a highly-regarded boutique IP firm, known particularly for its enforcement capabilities. Partners Anthony Bengzon, Ferdinand Negre and Michael Untalan are all top lawyers in the Philippines. The firm, whose clients include notable names such as Honda Motors, Levi Strauss & Co, San Miguel Corp, Max’s Group, Nestle and Lacoste, celebrated its 20th anniversary on February 5, 2020. Its office is located in Bonifacio Global City.

 

Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento consists of seasoned lawyers with a combined experience of more than 50 years, including partners Andre Betita, John Cabilao, Pericles Casuela and Joseph Sarmiento. The firm, based in Muntinlupa in Manila’s southern suburbs, is a top-notch full-service firm that specializes in IP work, while also offering general corporate, employment, investment and dispute resolution services. The firm has extensive experience in the management and protection of IP rights, including enforcement before courts and other government agencies. Casuela is personable, business-minded and a good source of information about Philippines’ law.

 

Led by managing partner Antonio Bucoy, Bucoy Poblador & Associates is based in Manila with practices covering Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The firm helps negotiate and prepare agreements on licensing, technology transfer and other related contracts.

 

Carag, Jamora, Somera & Villareal is highly regarded for its strength in the copyright realm, particularly when working with the media and entertainment sectors, as well as in patent and trademark protection. Maria Trinidad Villareal brings significant experience to the firm, particularly in copyright work.

 

Castillo Laman Tan Pantaleon & San Jose is a full-service law firm. Its IP team, led by partner Noel Laman, advises on all relevant areas such as licensing, trademark, patent and copyright. The firm provides services to both local companies and multinational companies such as Kodak and Nokia.

 

Founded by a young group of IP professionals headed by Mario C. Cerilles, Jr. and Harry Gwynn Omar M. Fernan, who are both adept in sciences, Cerilles & Fernan Intellectual Property Law (CFIP Law) is a boutique law firm located in Makati City that specializes in filing PCT applications in the Philippines and managing national phase entry in other countries. A team of consultants with backgrounds in fields as diverse as physics, biotechnology and engineering supports the firm. Cesar C. Cruz & Partners is a business-focused firm known for finding practical and proactive solutions for clients. IP dominates at the firm, which also provides services in corporate and commercial law, labour and employment law and immigration law. Senior partner Jaime M. Padilla appears frequently before the intellectual property office, courts and other administrative offices.

 

Led by senior partner Patricia AO Bunye, Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia’s services include prosecution of applications for the registration of trademarks and patents and applications for issuance of copyright deposit; protection of business models, trade secrets and undisclosed information; IP commercialization; handling administrative, civil and criminal cases; dispute settlement; mediation involving IPRs; and anti-piracy programs and intellectual property enforcement cases. Among others, the firm handles IP matters for the Department of Science and Technology-Technology Application and Promotion Institute and the Asian Institute of Management. Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia likewise represents the heirs and estate of National Artist for Theater and Literature Rolando S. Tinio for IP audit, contracts review and protection of his works through copyright deposit among others. Senior partner Susan Villanueva is a key IP contact. Among its lead lawyers are Rowanie A. Nakan and Criselda Santiago for patents and Divina Gracia E. Pedron and Carlo B. Valerio for copyright. The firm was named copyright firm of the year for the Philippines at the 2020 Asia IP awards.

 

Disini Buted Disini is one of the Philippines’ leading technology practices, with expertise in e-commerce, cyberspace law, FinTech and data privacy, to complement the firm’s IP and entertainment law practices. The firm’s IP practice has successfully petitioned the cancellation of a brand name that was confusingly similar to a beauty product distributor’s brand and advised a top Philippine university on copyright in relation to the development of online learning materials.

 

IP specialist E.B. Astudillo & Associates is noted for its IP litigation work; its lawyers practice before regional trial courts, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court in criminal and civil actions as well as the Intellectual Property Office, the Bureau of Food and Drugs and the Bureau of Customs for administrative actions. The firm also provides top-level enforcement actions, from filing search warrants to coordination with private investigators and government enforcement agencies and participation in the raids themselves. Enrico B. Astudillo is a key contact, as is Reena C. Mitra.

 

Esguerra & Blanco is a full-service firm that advises both local and international clients on all areas of law. The firm’s top practitioners, including managing partner Ramon Esguerra and partner Carlos Paulo Villaruz and Abelaine Alcantara handle IP matters such as inter partes and administrative litigation, as well as registrations of trademark, copyright, patent, technology transfer and licensing.

 

Federis & Associates is a boutique law firm based in Manila, practicing exclusively in the field of IP. With top practitioners such as Mila Federis, Caesar Poblador and Jan Abigail Ponce-Roxas on board, the firm has been identified by numerous multinational corporations as one of the best for patent prosecution in the Asia-Pacific region for many years.

 

With headquarters in Manila, a branch office in Cavite and a liaison office in Hong Kong, Fortun Narvasa & Salazar is a full-service law firm advising clients on all aspects of IP. Senior partners including Roderick Salazar III and Philip Sigfrid Fortun, and partner Bayani Loste, advise on patent and trademark prosecution work as well as conducting search and seizure of infringing products. They regularly volunteer as lecturers and trainers in public IP awareness campaigns sponsored by IPOPHL. Senior partner Pablo Gancayco leads Gancayco Balasbas & Associates in offering services such as registration, enforcement and cancellation for copyright, technology transfer, patents, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, layout designs, topographies and integrated circuits.

 

Gorriceta Africa Cauton & Saavedra is particularly noted for its strong TMT practice, where that strength includes emerging technologies such as FinTech, property technology, health technology, education technology, AI, blockchain, cryptocurrency, virtual currency business activities and e-commerce. The firm also deals with a wide range of IP matters, both contentious and non-contentious, including work on patents and trademarks to domain names, licensing, e-commerce and software issues. The firm has a deep expertise in technology transfer and IP assignment and licensing.

 

Gulapa Law was founded in 2015 by Aris L. Gulapa, who had a wealth of legal experience in Manila, Tokyo, Singapore, New York and elsewhere prior to establishing his own firm. He has worked on the new Philippine ePassport and on the National Government Administrative Center project. The firm has expanded to include offices in San Francisco and New York. The Hechanova Group Hechanova & Co. and Hechanova Bugay Vilchez & Andaya-Racadio – is based in Manila, where the former firm focuses on prosecution matters and the latter on litigation work. With key IP practitioners including president Editha Hechanova and partner Maria Gladys Vilchez, the firm advices on matters related to trademarks, patents, copyright, domain names, utility models, designs, litigation, licensing and franchising. One of its foremost clients is Alibaba Group Holding Limited for which the firm filed 44 applications covering various technologies in a 12-month period. Chrissie Anne Barredo for patent prosecution and litigation, Ruhjen Osmena for litigation and Grace Carbonell for chemical patents are also key contacts. The firm was named Asia IP patent firm of the year in the Philippines 2020.

 

Singapore-based Mirandah Asia (Philippines) has an office in Bonifacio Global City. Head of patent and industrial design Emilia Lorenzo and head of trademark Marjorie Rodrigo bring massive IP experience to the firm. The firm also has offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Hanoi and Bangkok, as well as significant experience in Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia, Brunei and India.

 

The intellectual property practice at Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano (MVGS) includes registration, legal advisory on contractual concerns and prosecution and defense of IP infringement actions. Shirley F. Alinea leads the firm’s IP group. She is also an expert and lecturer in the arbitration field; Alinea is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc. (PDRCI) and an accredited arbitrator of the PDRCI, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

 

One of the newest IP firms in the Philippines, Optmarks, is headed by founding director Arjel De Guzman. The firm has been engaged by several foreign companies to represent them in opposition cases including First Abi Dhabi Bank, Jiangmen Wheelplus and Spank Industries, to name a few. In addition, Optmarks has recently been engaged by Singapore’s SEA Limited as its local agent, primarily handling their trademark portfolio for the e-commerce site, Shopee.

 

Renato Calma, Roane Alfredo Lopez III and Virna Emeline Caringal-Divino are key IP practitioners at Ortega, Bacorro, Odulio, Calma & Carbonell. The firm looks after the intellectual property portfolio of a good number of established European, American and Asian companies in the pharmaceutical industry, sports and entertainment, the food industry, and the fashion, clothing and consumer items industry.

 

Platon Martinez Flores San Pedro & Leaño boasts a well-regarded IP practice, including for its handling of patent and trademark prosecution and unfair competition matters. The firm has also undertaken marketing campaigns with its clients to curb the sale and distribution of counterfeit products, and led in the search and raid of establishments suspected of selling and distributing counterfeit products. Senior partner Augusto S. San Pedro heads up the firm’s IP practice.

 

Based in Makati, Poblador Bautista & Reyes’ IP practice includes trademarks, clearance, licensing, copyright, litigation, unfair competition, patents, utility models and industrial designs. Key contacts include Gilbert Raymund T. Reyes, Dino Vivencio A.A. Tamayo, Romeo Johann I. Fernandez and Brigitte da Costa-Villaluz.

 

Quasha, Ancheta, Peña and Nolasco is one of the oldest law firms in the Philippines, tracing its roots to 1946 when it was founded by an American lawyer as William H. Quasha and Associates. The firm is associated with Zobella & Co. on trademark and patent registration and maintenance.

 

As the first member firm of Baker McKenzie in Asia, Quisumbing Torres has been advising organizations such as Business Software Alliance and Warner Bros for 50 years. Led by partner Bienvenido Marquez III, who heads the firm’s IP and technology group in Manila, and highly-regarded partner Divina Ilas-Panganiban, the firm brings in-depth knowledge of local IP laws and business practices to matters ranging from licensing and franchising, technology transfer, to IP prosecution, litigation and enforcement.

 

Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & de los Angeles offers a full range of legal services with over 90 lawyers. The IP practice is led by senior partner Rogelio Nicandro. Headquartered in Manila with branches in Cebu and Hong Kong, the firm’s IP department handles prosecution of patents, trademarks, copyright, licensing and technology transfer applications before IPOPHL, as well as pursuing civil and criminal cases involving infringement and unfair competition. It coordinates with government agencies in obtaining and implementing search warrants for the seizure

of infringing articles.

 

R.V. Domingo & Associates is a full-service law firm with practices including intellectual property; entertainment, arts and sports law; media law; cyberspace and e-commerce law; science and technology law; technology transfer; franchising; and competition law. Clients include the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the International Olympic Committee, the Motion Picture Association, The Coca-Cola Export Corporation and the British Broadcasting Corporation Worldwide Limited. The firm works closely with the RVD Business Intelligence Consultancy (RBDBic), a business risk and intelligence consultancy with its own in-house investigators.

 

 

Sapalo Velez Bundang & Bulilan is based in Manila with branch offices in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao and Iloilo. Led by managing partner Ignacio Sapalo and senior partner Neptali Bulilan, the IP team represents clients worldwide. It has advised the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (FILSCAP) in a long-running dispute with Philippine Home Cable Holdings for copyright infringement.

 

Siguion Reyna, Montecillo & Ongsiako (SRMO) is celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2021. The full-service law firm’s IP practice group provides work in registrations, actions such as oppositions and cancellations, and technology transfer agreements and other forms of licensing and assignments.

 

Headquartered in Manila with branches in Cebu, Subic and Davao, SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan is one of the country’s largest law firms in terms of client base and range of IP services. Led by partner Enrique T. Manuel, the IP team includes litigation specialists for interpartes and other administrative proceedings before IPOPHL as well as cases in courts designated to try unfair competition, copyright infringement, etc. Partner Vida M. Panaganiban Alindogan is a key IP contact in the firm.

 

The forte at VeraLaw is intellectual property. With clients and colleagues all over the world, Maria Theresa C. Gonzales, Maria Francesca V. Bautista, Daphne Ruby Grasparil and Roberto Paolo R. Suarez have solid experience in working for international markets, particularly in filing and prosecuting patent and trademark applications of most countries.

 

Based in Manila, senior partner Bienvenido I. Somera Jr. and partner Katrina Doble and Sophia C. Cruz-Abrenica lead Villaraza & Angangco (V&A Law) in providing services of trademark and patent prosecution, copyright registration, IP commercialization, licensing, franchising, litigation as well as enforcement actions.

 

Zobella & Co. (A.Q. Ancheta & Partners) is a pioneering IP practice in Manila. Cheryl Angela A. Ibarra and Emil Bien F. Ongkiko are key contacts for IP. The firm was originally formed as an IP registration and maintenance spin-off from associated firm Quasha, Ancheta, Peña and Nolasco; it has grown since then to also provide advice on corporate and commercial matters, civil litigation, labour and employment, immigration and estates.

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