Do you really need to protect your intellectual property? Is it worth it?
Nowadays, keeping your small business afloat is not enough. You might also want to keep ahead of your competition. If you are a business owner who has an innovative idea, you know you can take a run for it.
We have to admit that competition in any industry can be harsh. However, what’s stopping the competitors from copying your product, service, logo, or business ideas? Of course, that is to legally claim ownership of your intellectual property.
Understanding Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is as important to every startup, micro, small, and medium enterprises as it is to known brands such as Coca-Cola, Apple, and Louis Vuitton.
This article will help you understand:
- What is Intellectual Property
- The benefits of protecting your IP
- The five (5) IP categories
- How to register your IP with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IP Philippines); and
- Your rights as the registered owner of your IP
Relevance of Intellectual Property for MSMEs
Intellectual Property Rights can be the key asset to keep you on top of your competitive industry. You may have your MSMEs now, but you might want to keep your brand’s unique identity as it grows.
Intellectual property refers to your business’ creative works. It could be just an idea, knowledge, recipes, software, a process, a brand name, a logo, designs, inventions, or any work with intellectual effort or creativity.
IP can be your main source of cash flow or something that helps consumer identify your business. In case you are ready to expand, your IPR can attract interested investors.
You can also protect your business from IPR infringement. As your business prospers, infringement can be a major concern as it can cause to loss of revenue, competitive advantage and reputation. As a MSME, it could lead to the end of your business.
The Six Categories of Intellectual Property Rights
Patent gives an exclusive right to a device, invention, substance, process, or methods that has to be useful and offers a technical solution to an identified problem. The IP registered for patent should be new, inventive, and industrially applicable.
How can your company benefit from this? As an owner, you have the exclusive right to prevent or prohibit an unauthorized person to make, sell, import, or use your patented product.
If it is not a product, but rather a process, you can prevent any person from using the process and sell any product obtained from this specific process.
Take for example the most recent Apple patent. The company filed a patent for a gadget accessory which makes an iPhone into a laptop-style terminal. Once approved, Apple has to reveal the patented product to the public and how it works.
The disadvantage is you are required to reveal the patented product, process, or method and how it works. It won’t be your “secret recipe” for success. But the good thing is nobody can duplicate it without your authorization.
The patent will give you exclusive rights for 20 years.
Steps on Registering Your Patent
- File a patent application to the Bureau of Patents (BOP) in the Philippine Intellectual Property Office. Include a sketch or drawing if it is necessary to make a clear explanation.
- If all of the application requirements are met, the patent will be published after eighteen (18) months.
- If there is no objection from the public, a patent is granted.
The filing fee can cost from Php 1,380 to Php 2,760.
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You need to make your company distinctive. There has to be a way to make your brand stand out. Something that will make people recognize you in just one look.
This is where trademark comes in.
A trademark is a visible sign that gives your goods or services a unique identity so your customers will know that these are from your company.
What’s in it for you? You own the exclusive right to that sign or symbol; and nobody can copy or use them for their own profit.
Make sure your trademark is the best representation of your company. Also note that there are certain things which cannot be registered: Immoral or deceptive matters, the Philippine flag, a color without any share or entity, something against public morality, and an individual’s name/signature/portrait without a written consent.
Steps on Registering Your Trademark
- File an application addressed to the Bureau of Trademarks at the Philippine Intellectual Property Office. Include a request for registration, the trademark’s drawing, and fees. You can get a copy of the Trademark Application Form online.
- Wait while Philippine IPO search their database for identical trademarks.
- Publish your trademark in IP Philippines Gazette.
- If there is no opposition from the public within 30 days, the Intellectual Property Office will now issue the Certificate of Registration.
You might have to spend from Php 5,000 to P15,000 and wait up to 24 months for the completion of the whole process. The right to your trademark will last for 10 years from registration date. This means you’ll need to renew your registration after a decade.
Does your business involves literary, musical compositions, original ornamental designs, photographic and cinematographic works, and other original artistic works? Protect them with a copyright! Copyright does not only give you exclusive rights, it also includes your heirs and successors.
This way, you can also protect your works from any unauthorized distortion, mutilation, or other modification. They also cannot replicate or reproduce your works without your consent or without attributing them to you.
How long does it last? The legal protection can last up to 50 years after the death of the author or creator of original work. The term of fifty (50) years starts from the date of publication of the copyrighted works are photographic and audio-visual.
Steps on Registering Your Copyright
- Personally submit an application at the Intellectual Property Satellite Office (IPSO). Include the notarized copyright application form and documents proving ownership and two copies of the document subject for application.
- After the IPSO Field Specialist reviewed the correctness of the entries, pay the fee at the designated Land Bank branch.
- Get an Acknowledgement Receipt (AR) from the IPSO and wait for them to tell you when you can get your Certificate of Registration. Expect for the process to take months.
Is your company selling household goods, lighting equipment, electronic devices, jewelries or such? Your competitors can copy your original ornamental designs or models.
Industrial designs are any composition of shape, lines, and colors, or any three-dimensional form. Make sure to own your designs legally.
An industrial design registration can last up to five years and renewable up to two times. This means you can own your design for a maximum of 15 years.
Steps on Registering Your Industrial Designs
- All applications shall be registered without substantive examination provided that all required fees are paid and formal requirements are met.
- The IPO shall conduct a formality examination of the application.
- You have to pay the basic filing fees for design registrations of around Php 3,030 before getting the certificate of registration.
Ever wonder why some products have their origin of location stamped right across its packaging?
Let’s consider the bottled strawberry jams. Which do you think has better quality: The one “Made in Baguio” or the one without any label of origin?
Here in the Philippines, provinces have their signature delicacies. If your product came from a known source, then it gives your brand a good reputation.
The geographical indication simply gives you the right to claim the origin of your product. Conscious customers can then be assured of good quality and value for their money.
Who can qualify for the registration of geographical indication? Individuals, organizations, or government agencies who are directly involved in producing the products bearing geographical indications.
Steps on Registering Your Geographical Indication
- You may file your application to the Bureau of Trademarks under IPO.
- IPO will conduct an examination of the application under the rules of registration of trademark. That’s because specific rules for geographical indication are not yet finalized.
- The application will then be published in the IPO e-Gazette for 30 days.
- If there is no opposition, your geographical indication will be legally registered.
Trade secrets are vital for your company to stay on top of the competition. You can protect this undisclosed information through the IP Code or Rights.
Let’s say you have a restaurant specializing with a unique adobo recipe. Your secret recipe must be legally protected.
As of date, there is still no concrete law to protect the trade secrets. However, Supreme Court defined trade secrets as a plan, process, mechanism, or tool kept between the business owner and the employees.
So what can you do about it? MSMEs must insert confidentiality provisions into employee contracts. It is in the owner’s discretion on how much he or she wants to impart to the employees. Simply, it is on a need-to-know basis only. Breach of contract may lead the business owners to take civil actions.
Just like an entrepreneur who wants to protect his or her business from thieves and burglars, you will also want to protect your intellectual property from counterfeits and cases of infringements. You need to make sure that the business and brand you built with care and time will not be harmed.
This is why it is vital to educate yourself about your rights to protect your intellectual properties and the steps to take legal ownership on them.
The lifeline of your company lives with its individuality and uniqueness offered to consumers. If you lose it, then your cash in-flow will dry up.
Protect your business internally. Get your intellectual properties secured to keep your business way ahead of the competition.