DICT audits use of ‘unlicensed’ computer software in gov’t

Published April 6, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Department of Information and Communications and Technology (DICT) is expected to come up with its audit on the use of software in government offices to put an end to persistent complaint by the US Trade Representative (USTR) of Philippine government offices’ continued use of pirated computer software.

This was announced Monday, (April 5)  by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines as it kicked off the IP Month celebration with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with entrepreneur RJ Ledesma as its IP ambassador.

IPOPHL officials wondered why the USTR, which conducts the annual IPR review or the Special 301, had been raising up this issue in the past two cycles — 2019 and 2020. 

IPOPHL Deputy Director General Teodoro Pascua said the DICT is expected to come up with the results of its audit this year with respect to the use of genuine software in government offices. He said the National Committee on IPR is working with DICT. 

Pascua expressed hope this matter can be settled already in the upcoming USTR Special 301 report.  

IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba also said that while there has been no exact numbers, he was certain that “the use of pirated software in government has dramatically dropped facilitated by easier procurement by the Department of Budget and Management and besides software firms are stricter on licensIng model and techniques using online real time validation so leaving no choice for users but to purchase subscription.”

Pascua said that USTR had kept on mentioning this issue against the Philippines in the previous 301 Reports despite having sufficiently addressed those charges. The Philippine government has already put in place several safety measures with the government already spending billions of pesos to buy original software, he pointed out.

“We cannot understand why it was brought up because we have shown that what we bought are licensed software,” he added. The IPOPHL has also been reminding government agencies to buy only authentic and original software.

Barba, however, admitted that there is still low awareness of IP for the country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). 

“During this IP month we will be having programs to educate and capacitate MSMEs on the advantage of registering their IP,” said Barba.

In 2020, however, Barba admitted of a sharp drop in IP filings. Overall IP filings — patents, utility models, trademark, copyright — went down 12 percent in 2020 from the record high 47,000 registration in 2019.

Director General Rowel S. Barba

The biggest hit was copyright, which was down 45 percent, while utility models declined by 40 percent vs 2019.

“Hopefully, we can recover or exceed this year what we’ve lost in 2020,” he said. 

In 2019, Barba said, MSME filing accounts for 71 percent of total resident filers. 

With our IP Ambassador RJ, efforts with partners and the Department of Trade and Industry, Barba said,

“We are optimistic we will get more MSMEs to file for their IPs and put IP strategy in their business.” 

“With the theme ‘IP and MSMEs: Our Road to Recovery’, our National IP Month 2021 will all be about our MSMEs and our under-resourced inventors and artists,” Barba said at a virtual press conference which officially commenced the celebration. 

“Our month-long celebration will be devoted to driving more MSMEs to create, protect and commercially optimize their IPs; help them integrate IP strategies into their business models; and eventually realize the exclusive rewards and competitive advantage one enjoys from IP,” Barba said. 

The IPOPHL chief emphasized that MSMEs’ recovery is vital to the recovery of the whole nation as the sector comprises over 99 percent of Philippine businesses, employs about 63 percent of the local workforce, and contributes 40 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. 

“So until the time our MSMEs have fully recovered, we cannot say with high zest the words, ‘We have healed as one,’” Barba said. 

Barba added IPOPHL will be pushing MSMEs and independent inventors and artists to explore global opportunities and take advantage of its international filing services and programs, namely the Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) and the recently extended Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Assistance Program.

The IAP bridges under-resourced inventors to IP experts and lawyers for free legal advice on global patent protection. Meanwhile, the PCT Assistance Program, which has helped 24 resident filers to be protected in various international markets, is an application fee waiver program that also offers technical guidance on the PCT process.

In all, Barba said IPOPHL will strive to expand the reach of its MSME-tailored programs to hasten the achievement of an inclusive recovery.

Among these programs are the Juana Make a Mark program, which waives application fees for MSMEs led by women. The program has benefited almost 3,000 MSMEs and has been extended to benefit 1,000 more MSMEs and women.