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IPOPHL Director General Intellectual Property culture in the Philippines




Rowel Barba walks with a quiet sense of self-assurance; there is no ostentatiousness to his stride. He gives off the impression that in a pinch, he can be relied upon to deliver without a fuss and without calling attention to himself.

In another time, Barba was the Undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). And if the reward for good work is more work, then Barba must have done well at the DTI. He was given more responsibilities, but this time in the service of the creative and innovative industry. Barba was appointed Director General of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) on Feb. 6, 2020, a month before a nationwide lockdown came into effect.

​ As former Undersecretary of the DTI, he answered to Secretary Ramon Lopez, whom he previously worked with at RFM Corporation, the leading food and beverage company.

At the DTI, in addition to his being the Chief of Staff of the Secretary, Barba supervised several groups, including the Office of the Secretary, Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business Group, and the Management Services Group. He also sat on Boards relevant to the construction industry and foreign trade, among other industries. “In the DTI, you handle all the concerns of industries, businesses, importers, exporters, and you deal with the Bureau of Customs, logistics groups, the Department of Transportation and other government agencies,” Barba says. “But one good thing with working with other government agencies is that we had a ‘whole-of-nation’ approach.” Director General Barba is bringing his DTI-honed skillset to IPOPHL: the ability to network various offices and to collaborate among diverse interests to deliver at faster turnaround times.

This is why in his six-point agenda, encapsulated in the word “BRIGHT,” B stands for “Building Collaboration and Partnerships.” “Based on my experience,” Barba explains, “the whole-of-nation approach is really the key in making sure that we promote an IP culture in the Philippines.

We cannot do it alone. And with the limited resources of IPOPHL, we need assistance from other government agencies.” B IS FOR BUILDING COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIPS Because of Barba’s initiative, IPOPHL signed an agreement with the Philippine Trade Trading Center – Global MSME Academy (PTTCGMEA) and the DTI to mainstream and integrate intellectual property (IP) education into the training and learning programs.

With the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the DTI, the Director General signed what he refers to as a “Super Highway Agreement,” providing DOST-supported innovators not just a faster lane for their registration of their IPs, but also an avenue to foster a closer working relationship supportive of DOST projects.

With the private sector, IPOPHL signed an agreement with the Licensing Executives Society Philippines (LESP) to organize a certificate program for advanced learning on IP licensing in the Philippines, with the end-goal of helping inventor-investor partners benefit from licensing agreements. With the academe, IPOPHL inked an agreement with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) to scale up IP management skills of local startups trained under the AIM Dado Banatao Incubator (AIM-DBI) Program.

In the international scene, the Philippines signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement, the biggest regional free trade agreement in the world.

The Agreement seeks to further regional cooperation and economic integration through the creation, strategic utilization, and protection of intellectual property. R IS TO RAISE THE ANTE FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE The R in BRIGHT aims to “raise the ante on customer service.” Barba seeks to deliver ownership of trademarks and patents at faster turnaround times so that businesses would be able to commercialize their output faster. “As the Philippines is gunning for a knowledge-based economy, meaning an economy driven by

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