The Philippines Joins RCEP, What Now？
After just two days of deliberations in the Senate, the Philippines has finally joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest trade agreement in the world.
“The recent ratification of the Philippines to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a significant step,” said Arjel P. de Guzman, a founding director at Optmarks. “The RCEP is an important agreement, not only to the Philippines but to other member countries as well, because it will provide a new avenue for trade as well as new, improved, and more pinpointed rules for growing trade and investment in the Asia Pacific Region. Viewed as a modern, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership, RCEP is expected to facilitate the expansion of regional trade and investment and likewise contribute to global economic growth and development.”
He added that RCEP is important because it maintains certain IP commitments from its member states. “For one, RCEP require signatories to ratify or accede to treaties and agreements which aim to protect intellectual property, including the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. RCEP likewise requires member countries to ratify or accede the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure known as the Budapest Treaty,” he says. “RCEP likewise acknowledges the different pace each member country has in terms of readiness to ratify or accede. As such, RCEP provides definite timelines by which countries must ratify or accede to the treaties on a case-by-case basis.”
In the realm of border protection, RCEP mandates for member countries to provide procedures available to IP right holders to request for government agencies to initiate seizure proceedings of counterfeit or pirated goods at the port of entry. Equally important, RCEP requires member countries to provide for civil remedies and criminal prosecution for cases of copyright violation or trademark infringement or counterfeiting.
As regards protection of domain names, RCEP requires that member countries adopt a procedure for settling disputes involving domain names modelled after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANNN) system.
As to administration of IP registration and protection, RCEP requires member countries to make available digital platforms to apply for patents, trademarks, and industrial designs. Along such digital platforms, means to institute opposition cases must also be maintained by member countries.
“As in any other agreement or treaty, faithful compliance is always the foremost requisite in order to be successful,” says de Guzman. “The Philippine government must remain faithful to its commitment in the RCEP to fully realize its benefits. As to any significant reforms in the near future, I would say the digitalization of IP administration by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) is unparalleled. RCEP provides a concrete jump-off towards the digitalization of IP rights. RCEP’s mandate to member countries to establish digital databases concerning IP information and online platforms for IP registration effectively removes barriers to entry for businesses that otherwise do not have the capacity to navigate complex IP regimes. Several countries have already adopted full digitalization and online filing of IP related requests and submissions. I think it is high time for the Philippines.
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