MSMEs get trademark protection

Louella Desiderio - The Philippine Star

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has teamed up with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) and Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) for a program to help at least 100 micro, small and medium, enterprises (MSMEs) protect their trademarks in foreign markets.

“Our aim is by 2024 or before I finish my term as IPOPHL director general, at least 100 MSMEs will have successfully registered under the Madrid Protocol,” IPOPHL director general Rowel Barba said during the launch of the Juan for the World program.

He said the new program seeks to empower MSMEs to go global by registering their trademarks abroad through the Madrid Protocol, which allows a single application to be made for protection in up to 125 countries.

The new program is an offshoot of the Juana Make a Mark program which waives the trademark application fees for eligible women-led MSMEs.

Since the Philippines’ accession to the Madrid Protocol in 2012 until the end of 2020, Barba said the IPOPHL has received a total of 436 local applications of which only 154 are small entities.

“This low rate is attributable to the lack of financing and know-how on international trademark application process. Our newest Juan for the World will take down all these barriers,” he said.

Under the memorandum of agreement signed for the Juan for the World program, the IPOPHL will help partners enhance their capacity to protect and manage their stakeholders’ IP right through training and advisory assistance on the Madrid protocol registration process.

DTI, the IPOPHL’s mother agency, will be responsible for the review and endorsement of  MSMEs eligible for the program.

Meanwhile, the PFA and PRA shall sponsor at least the basic fee of the applicant’s international application under the Madrid system.

Both the DTI and industry partners will also be assisting the IPOPHL in encouraging eligible MSMEs to register their trademarks.

To be eligible for the program, Bureau of Trademarks director Jesus Antonio Ros said the applicant should be classified as MSME by the DTI; have a valid and existing registered mark with the IPOPHL; belong to DTI’s priority industries; have significant potential or actual market abroad; without pending or registered trademark abroad; engaged in business for at least one year or with limited financial capacity; and undertake to pay for the additional expenses required for the application not covered by the sponsoring organization.

PFA president Sherill Quintana said the group is supporting the Juan for the World program as it is in line its goal to bring more MSMEs to overseas markets and promote franchising as a tool for economic development.

“Despite the ongoing crisis we are all facing today, we saw the need to support this program because going global is one way to meet the challenges of the pandemic,” she said.

PRA chairman Paul Santos said the group is hopeful the program would encourage more MSME businesses to have IP rights protected overseas through the Madrid Protocol so that they can explore more possible markets abroad.

For his part, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said he looks forward to seeing more private sector partners committing to join the program to support MSMEs to become more globally competitive.

“DTI has always believed that an effective strategy in managing IP rights can increase the value of MSMEs. Given that this sector contributes significantly to the Philippine economy, IP in MSME growth strategies can hence generate more and higher-income jobs,” he said.

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