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Friday, December 8, 2023

IPOPHL beefs up mediation unit for IP dispute settlement

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said it will beef up its mediation unit to further promote mediation as an intellectual property (IP) dispute settlement mode beneficial to all parties.

IPOPHL director-general Rowel Barba said in a panel during the IP Mediation Conference 2023 held by the European Union IP Office on Oct. 19 to 20, 2023 in Alicante, Spain that the average annual cases settled at IPOPHL increased from 54 to nearly 60 annually.

“In voluntary mediation, once parties refuse to participate, they move on to the next phase which is litigation or adjudication. It fails to consider those cases that could have been successfully mediated given the right mediator or a bit of encouragement. What makes mandatory mediation appealing is that the parties are given an opportunity to discuss the IP issue or matter outside of its legal aspects,” Barba said.

The panel dove deep into the pros and cons of mediation models, particularly voluntary and mandatory mediation. The panel, however, noted challenges as the influx of cases going through mandatory mediation has urged the employment of more people at the mediation front.

Barba shared during the panel the benefits of mandatory mediation and the Office’s plans to improve it.

The IPOPHL launched its mandatory mediation model in October 2019, seeing the benefits of lower costs to parties compared to litigation in the courts, the shorter time to arrive at resolution and the possibility of turning competitors into allies through amicable negotiations.

The IPOPHL handles only 115 cases a year under voluntary mediation through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) unit, while mandatory mediation handles an average of 226 cases per year.

“We were able to address this challenge by having an effective ADR unit which ensures that the process proceeds smoothly but we may need to refresh and expand the current roster of mediators,” Barba said.

The IPOPHL said annual dispute settlement rate averaged nearly 30 percent from 2020 to 2022 when mandatory mediation was already in place.

To improve settlement rates, IPOPHL is looking to accredit more mediators who are well-versed in the latest trends and technologies that could be of concern in future IP disputes.

The agency conducted the five-day 2023 IP Mediation Accreditation Course in August 2023 which gathered over 40 practicing and aspiring mediators who gained theoretical, practical and ethical knowledge and skills crucial in IP mediation.

“Hopefully, having more skilled mediators will alleviate the caseload of each of our current mediators and create a positive impact in positioning mediation as the way to go for settling IP disputes effectively,” Barba said.

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