DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez speaks at the National IP Strategy of the Philippines (NIPS)

Instead of rebellion, an innovative, inclusive entrepreneurial revolution is what the Philippines currently needs, the country’s trade chief said.

Speaking at the launch of the National IP Strategy of the Philippines (NIPS) on 30 May, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez endorsed the new strategy for intellectual property (IP) protection that can help incentivize existing and aspiring Filipino micro, small and medium entrepreneurs (MSMEs) to contribute in developing a more innovative, creative and economically-dynamic Philippines.

“In today’s knowledge economy, intellectual property is undoubtedly an invisible advantage,” said Sec. Lopez, referring to IP as an important vehicle that spurs economic growth, which can help the government in its thrust to alleviate poverty and to realize shared prosperity for all.

With the new IP protection strategy, the government lays the foundation to address the need to safeguard original, innovative and creative ideas of both MSMEs and bigger stakeholders against different forms of IP theft and piracy.

According to the trade chief, without the protection and recognition of a well-functioning IP system, innovative and creative undertakings may be impeded, slowing down the steady stream of competitive products and services in the market.

IP and innovation

Sec. Lopez said that there is a need to assess research and development initiatives if the Philippines wants to become an active player in the innovation game, adding that innovation is a potential area of improvement where the NIPS strategies would be relevant.

“Innovation should not only be for the big guys. We have to make innovation as a general mindset for our MSMEs,” he said.

The NIPS can help the country focus on improving its ranking as 86th out of 128 countries surveyed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the Global Innovation Index.

“MSMEs only account for 35% of the Gross Domestic Product because value-added is small. Thus, we need to improve value creation process of our MSMEs through innovation,” he added.

IP and the MSME agenda

The trade chief imparted DTI’s current programs on the development of MSMEs, which serve as suppliers and subcontractors to large enterprises, as well as exporters.

The 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan’s Chapter on Trade and Services identified challenges that hinder MSMEs from growing, including low productivity and competitiveness, lack of access to new technologies, weak technological capability, and failure to engage in innovation and research and development activities.

As a response, DTI, anchoring on the already existing laws on MSME development, continues to harness the business potential of MSMEs by helping them improve their productivity and competitiveness. Current initiatives refer to fostering the right mindset, improving access to money, market, mentoring services, machines, skills training and adopting an inclusive business model.

As of 5 May 2017, 481 Negosyo Centers have been launched all over the country, with 2,035 Shared Service Facilities (SSF) supporting 92,227 users, and 357,383 having undergone SME training. As of April 2017, more than 9,000 barangay micro business enterprises were already registered with DTI.

Making a mark

“With the new joint program of DTI and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) known as Juana Make a Mark, the women entrepreneurs will have both the intellectual property knowledge and the assistance to protect their marks, thereby improving the marketability and recall of their products,” Sec. Lopez said.

The trade chief also sees the value of IP protection in another MSME program, Go Lokal!, a retail concept store showcasing quality and innovative local products crafted, designed and produced by MSMEs.

“Branding is an important component of Go Lokal! and with NIPS, I am hopeful that we can better empower participating MSMEs to enable them to leverage on trademarks—perhaps even collective marks to promote their products in the market,” he said.

“With a well-crafted national strategy that clearly maps out how intellectual property can be fully utilized to support economic development, we can regain competitive advantage and surge ahead of our neighbors,” he concluded.