Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) Judicial Strengthening to Improve Court Effectiveness (JUSTICE) project has, since 2012, engaged an array of stakeholders in the Philippines — including the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) and the Supreme Court of the Philippines — to strengthen the country’s enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). ABA ROLI’s efforts have focused on recent laws and amendments such as the New Rules on Intellectual Property Litigation and seek to ensure their effective implementation by enhancing the capacity of affected judges and court attorneys to apply them nationwide. To date, ABA ROLI has trained 427 judges, court personnel and attorneys on IPR law and jurisprudence.
The Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act trainings have reached 428 Special Commercial Court judges, Court of Appeals justices, and court attorneys.
Although enforcement of intellectual property (IP) laws in the Philippines remains a work in progress, recent headway has kept the country off the U.S. Trade Representative’s Watch List since 2014. Prior to that the Philippines had continuously been on the list since 1994, and was first listed in 1989. Attorney Allan B. Gepty, deputy director general of IPOPHL, attributes the country’s progress on the IPR front to the newly adopted IP rules and court guidelines, judicial trainings and public awareness campaigns. Gepty said trainings for Special Commercial Court Judges, such as those sponsored and coordinated by ABA ROLI, are “invaluable” because “strong [IPR] enforcement would be incomplete without able courts.” In recognition of ABA ROLI’s contributions toward the advancement of IPR in the country, IPOPHL named ABA ROLI an Intellectual Property Champion of the Philippines in 2014 and 2015.
In the coming months, ABA ROLI plans to roll out advanced trainings for Special Commercial Court judges on the New Rules on Intellectual Property Rights Cases. These trainings will cover advanced concepts in both trademark and copyright law, emphasizing best practices for handling the most challenging issues and limitations posed by IPR disputes. In addition, ABA ROLI has developed a “Manual on the New Rules for Intellectual Property Cases,” and is currently preparing to print and distribute 1,200 copies of the manual to judges and IPR justice sector officers nationwide. To assist in the development of the manual, ABA ROLI engaged the services of Attorney Ferdinand Negre, an IP expert with more than 30 years of experience in IP law practice, academic and judicial lectures and international consultancies with institutions such as the U.N. and the World Intellectual Property Office. He is a lecturer at PHILJA and a constant member of various Supreme Court committees on IP.
Another approach ABA ROLI is taking to the issue of IPR enforcement is the use of eCourt — the case monitoring information system developed specifically for the Philippine courts by ABA ROLI — to collect data on IPR cases. ABA ROLI has worked with the Supreme Court’s Office of the Court Administrator, among other stakeholders, to design and implement new data encoding procedures that ensure the tracking of useful case information such as parties’ names. This will help court staff to identify and report serial IPR violators, which in turn allows the government to maximize limited resources by prioritizing the prosecution of high impact cases. In an upcoming version, ABA ROLI’s eCourt system will further synergize with this effort by providing alerts and built-in categorization for IPR cases, making it even easier for judges and court staff to identify and report on actionable data. In the coming months, ABA ROLI will continue to work with the judiciary to maximize the utility of eCourt in improving IPR protections.
Since 2012, also under the JUSTICE project, ABA ROLI has worked to promote full implementation of the Financial Rehabilitation and Insolvency Act (FRIA), in collaboration with PHILJA and the Philippine Supreme Court’s Committee for Special Commercial Courts. Passed in 2010, FRIA was intended to enforce the state policy goal of encouraging debtors and their creditors to collectively and realistically resolve competing claims and property rights. It was discovered however, that most judges appointed to Special Commercial Courts were not adequately prepared to handle cases under FRIA due to the relative newness and complexity of the law. Thus, ABA ROLI has worked with PHILJA to train relevant justice sector officials on FRIA, its implementing rules and relevant jurisprudence. To date, the trainings have reached 428 Special Commercial Court judges, Court of Appeals justices, and court attorneys, and have been met with near universal praise. Judge Glenda Go, a first-time attendee at one such training, said: “[with] the training, I feel confident that I can promptly act on these cases.” For Go, the importance of such trainings is quite simple. “If you know what to do,” she said, “it is easier to act and dispose cases.” To complement these trainings, ABA ROLI is also developing a judges’ handbook on FRIA and the newly promulgated Rules on Financial Liquidation and Insolvency. Leading the drafting process is Maria Rowena Modesto-San Pedro, a Special Commercial Court judge, PHILJA professorial lecturer and international consultant. The handbooks will be distributed to Special Commercial Court judges nationwide.
To learn more about our work in the Philippines, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org.