For the first time since its establishment in 1998, filings at the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) were down across all types of intellectual property (IP) as the COVID-19 pandemic had brought about a wait-and-see situation for many innovators and creators.
According to IPOPHL, applications filed in 2020 for trademarks contracted by 10 percent year-on-year to a total of 35,274 and patents, by 9 percent to 3,648.
Utility model filings took the biggest hit, plunging 45% to 1,235 year-on-year, followed by industrial design (23% to 1,259). Meanwhile, copyright deposits slipped 44% to 940. Year 2020 also marked as the steepest drop for trademark and utility model applications.
Resident trademark filers, which accounted for the bulk, declined 10% to 21,034. Filings from non-residents edged down 14% to 6,827 while those made under the international Madrid Protocol slid 8% to 7,413.
Resident filers for utility models maintained the lion’s share of filings but dove 47% to 1,150. Non-resident applicants decreased slightly by 3% to 85.
Patent applications by residents went down 6% to 407 while non-residents slid 12% to 322. Foreign filings made under the Patent Cooperation Treaty decreased 9% to 2,919.
Resident filers for industrial designs declined 37% to 642 while non-resident applications increased 1% to 671.
“The sluggish flow of IP applications last year, which signify lower commitments to new intangible assets, was expected given the economic uncertainties subduing investment appetite,” IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba said.
“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,” he added.
On the decrease of patent filings in particular––a widely used proxy for research and innovative activities––Barba expressed hopes that this will be temporary.
Barba also hopes the trend today would resemble that in the post-financial crisis of 2008 when patenting activities dropped immediately following the recession but experienced sharp growth that surpassed pre-global economic crisis rates.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), global patent filings in 2012 grew by 9.2%, the fastest in 18 years. In the same year, industrial design counts grew by an all-time record rate of 17%.
In the Philippines, WIPO data show that patent filings in 2015 registered an annual growth of 52%, the fastest in 14 years.
“Past global crises have reconstructed industries, eliminating the less efficient firms or compelling a repurposing amongst them while accentuating the competitiveness of the more dynamic and the more agile who recover. And historically, 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.
“Thus, lower filings may signal a redirection of growth paths, favoring the highly competitive and innovative, rather than stymied innovation,” Barba said.
The IPOPHL chief said the agency will be working hard for filing activities in 2021 to rebound. Strategies include intensifying education campaigns on the benefits of IP protection and effective IP asset management in business and innovation pursuits.
IPOPHL will also continue improving processes with the goal of having front to back-end operations fully digitized by the end of the year.
“Digitizing will allow not only wider access of IPOPHL services among inventors and creators but will, just as importantly, elevate our quality of service in a way that will entice local and global stakeholders to protect their IP and create value for the future,” Barba added.