IPOPHL embarks on 100% online service for mediation, “WIPO Option” for cross-border disputes

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) recently upgraded its mediation service by mandating proceedings to be conducted entirely online while reviving the “WIPO Option” which is seen to be advantageous to parties involved in cross-border intellectual property (IP) disputes.

Published on March 4, 2021, Memorandum Circular No. 2020-047 or the “Amendments to the Revised Rules on Mediation” and Memorandum Circular No. 2020-048 or the “Amendment to the Rules of Procedure for IPOPHL Mediation Outside of Litigation” were issued by the Bureau of Legal Affairs (BLA). The issuances will take effect on April 3, 2021.

“With these amendments and value-added enhancements, IPOPHL sees its upgraded mediation services as a viable choice for local, including micro, small and medium enterprises, and foreign stakeholders as the mode and venue of resolving IP disputes,” IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba said. 

IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba

(Photo from IPOPHL)

To recall, IPOPHL first offered online mediation in May 2020 to ensure the continued delivery of service amid the quarantine. Counsels, parties and mediators attested to the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of this mode in settling disputes, citing the convenience it has provided and the cost and time in travel they were able to save, all while encouraging the observance of COVID-19 safety protocols.

The Office for Alternative Dispute Resolution (OADR), the main government agency tasked to promote the country’s use of alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation, has recognized the BLA’s measure as “a pioneering program for a quasi-judicial agency.”

BLA Director Nathaniel D. Arevalo said IPOPHL could be the first government agency to fully implement an end-to-end online mediation, from referral or filing of requests to the submission of settlement agreement or termination. 

However, “face-to-face” mediation sessions may be permitted but subject to the approval by the Director of the BLA. 

Meanwhile, IPOPHL’s revival of offering the WIPO Option could be beneficial to those seeking to settle IP-related disputes in multiple jurisdictions.

Established by IPOPHL and the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO-AMC), the WIPO Option enables IP disputes at IPOPHL to be referred to the WIPO-AMC which assists parties in the selection of mediators and offers facilitation services.

To further expand the use of the WIPO Option, the WIPO-AMC has waived the payment of its administration fee of $100 and reduced the cost of mediators’ fee to P4,000, the same rate as IPOPHL’s mediation fee.

“The waived fee will encourage more parties to avail of the WIPO Option by paying the same amount as that of IPOPHL,” Arevalo said.

Disputes that can be resolved through the WIPO Option may be related to, among others, trademark opposition, administrative complaints for violation of IP rights, disputes involving technology transfer payments and disputes relating to the terms of a license involving the author’s rights to public performance or other communication of his work. 

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