Inventors get free legal help for patent applications


    Free legal assistance is now available to inventors who want to file for patents.

    Patent filers and inventors who have found it expensive to do it are matched with pro bono lawyers who help them to understand the patent system and how to access and use it, all the way to drafting patent claims, Mary Grace Cruz-Yap of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said.

    Yap spoke at in an inventors’ forum on assistance to inventors convened last week by the Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI) of the Department of Science and Technology.

    She said the matching is available in the Inventors Assistance Program (IAP) of TAPI and IPOPHL, the government agency in charge of registration of intellectual property and conflict resolution of intellectual property rights in the Philippines.

    IAP was launched in 2016 as a joint initiative of IPOPHL with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Economic Forum. Its member countries are the Philippines, South Africa, Morocco, Ecuador and Colombia.

    The IAP is for what Yap called “under-resourced inventors as a matching game, a dating act” with legal experts. In the five countries, 118 patent specialists are on tap while 44 inventions have been selected for IAP assistance and six patents have been granted so far.

    She said the IAP, which is being implemented in cooperation with TAPI, has 16 accredited pro bono lawyers.

    “Less than 10 of them are currently engaged,” she said, adding that 20 inventions so far have been capacitated, 17 technologies have been forwarded to TAPI for filing and funding assistance and 23 patent applications have been filed under the IAP program.

    “TAPI as the lead in the promotion of technology transfer and commercialization through financial and technical assistance, has supported individuals and businesses in developing innovations and technologies,” said Edgar Garcia, TAPI director.

    The idea is to establish entrepreneurship based on science, technology and innovation, he said.

    Yap said while there are different IAP qualification criteria for each member country, the Philippines requires income eligibility of P500,000 or less annual income for individual applicants, among others. Small, micro and medium enterprises must have assets not more than P15 million. Also, applicants must have at least a basic knowledge of the intellectual property system.

    “The applications must be patentable or has intellectual property potentials and must have commercial potentials,” said Yap, director of IPOPHL’s Innovation Bureau (formerly the Documentation, Information and Technology Transfer Bureau).

    The IAP application goes to a steering committee for review followed by free matchmaking with legal experts in a process that goes up to patent protection. When the matchmaking stage is reached, IPOPHL and a steering committee that includes TAPI assesses the application for matchmaking.

    IAP applies for both those who have already filed for patents and those just starting the process to protect their inventions, said Yap.

    “We recommend that starting inventors enroll in WIPO’s online Distance Learning 101 which provides intellectual property basics,” she said, adding that IPOPHL also provides free, two- to four-hour weekly seminars on different topics from patents to industrial designs.

    Yap also revealed that patent applications in the United States if enrolled with the IAP program are entitled 75 percent reduced fees and up to 20 percent less for applications made in member countries of the European Union.

    She said IPOPHL has also waived up to December 2019 the International Search Authority fees that will indicate whether inventions would pass a patent search report. The report indicates whether patents already exist for inventions elsewhere.