Adapting to the New Normal: IPOPHL Leads Transition to Online Filing and Transactions During COVID-19 Pandemic
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines brought about many changes in the operations of both the public and private sectors. With the imposition of lockdowns and government-mandated social distancing came the need to transition to online meetings and remote work, a challenge that was faced by both sectors as the entire country struggled to adjust to the “new normal”.
The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (“IPOPHL”) was particularly swift to respond to the need for remote transactions in view of safety considerations brought about by COVID-19. Shortly after the announcement of the first government-imposed lockdown in March 2020, the IPOPHL issued IPOPHL Memorandum Circular No. 2020-006 implementing alternative work arrangements at its office and extending the deadlines for filing papers and pleadings falling within the Enhanced Community Quarantine period. Since then, the IPOPHL has issued several other circulars extending deadlines in response to government-imposed quarantine measures and normalizing the use of its online filing system for all payments and transactions in lieu of physical submissions at its office.
On 15 May 2020, the IPOPHL issued IPOPHL Memorandum Circular No. 2020-013 to ease the transition to the exclusive use, as applicable, of electronic filing and payment procedures as the “new normal”. Pursuant to this Circular, all trademark, patent, utility model, and industrial design applications, except voluminous invention applications exceeding 250 pages, shall be filed online through the IPOPHL electronic filing system. Document submissions relating to registered marks/patents and trademark/patent maintenance requirements are also required to be transmitted only through the IPOPHL eDocFile portal.
In addition to normalizing online filings and submissions, the IPOPHL has also led the shift to digitizing documents by allowing the submission of scanned copies of required original documents in lieu of the originals. Parties are now only required to submit the original document if questions arise regarding the authenticity or due execution of the scanned copy (IPOPHL Memorandum Circular No. 2020-013A).
As for Inter Partes and Intellectual Property (“IP”) Violation cases, IPOPHL Memorandum Circular No. 2020-031 allows the online filing of all pleadings and submissions via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. All payments are also made through the IPOPHL online payment facilities, with the corresponding Statement of Account to be sent to the submitting party via email. Further, under the Revised Uniform Rules on Appeal in the Office of the Director General, appeals to the IPOPHL Director General may now be filed through the email address email@example.com.
The IPOPHL has also recently transitioned to holding online hearings and mediation conferences to minimize unnecessary physical contact and face-to-face meetings at their office. The Office was one of the first government agencies to offer parties the option to request for online mediation as early as May 2020 in IPOPHL Memorandum Circular No. 2020-012. This year, it published amendments to the Revised Rules on Mediation and Revised Rules of Procedure for IPOPHL Mediation Outside of Litigation, establishing videoconferencing as the default mode for conducting all mediation proceedings, subject to the parties requesting otherwise.
Aside from mitigating safety risks due to COVID-19, the shift to online submissions, transactions, and hearings has inured to the benefit of all parties, resulting in increased safety standards for IPOPHL personnel and lower overall costs for parties who are saved the time and effort of meeting and transacting physically at the office. With the establishment of these electronic filing and payment procedures as the “new normal”, the measures undertaken by the IPOPHL in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have proven both efficient and practical in ensuring its compliance with minimum health standards and the continuity of all services offered by the Office.
Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia (“CMT”) has also quickly adapted to the “new normal” in light of the work-from-home arrangement implemented in the office since March 2020. CMT’s IP Department, in particular, experienced a near seamless transition to remote work due to the readily available online facilities provided by IPOPHL. Its lawyers and paralegals file applications, submit documents, and facilitate payments using the IPOPHL’s online facilities, and all meetings with clients, as far as practicable, are conducted virtually through videoconferencing. Despite the many logistical difficulties brought about by the pandemic, CMT’s IP Department continues to function productively and efficiently in serving all the needs of our clients.