Patent waivers for vaccines became one of the interesting issues involving intellectual property rights during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The intellectual property (IP) waivers aim to allow countries to choose not to enforce, apply or implement patents and other exclusivities that could impede the production and supply of COVID-19 medical tools until global herd immunity is reached.

The waiver would send a crucial signal to potential manufacturers that they can start producing needed COVID-19 medical tools without fear of being blocked by patents or other monopolies. 

As part of a bid to widen access to COVID-19 vaccines and address supply constraints, the rationale is that by forcing manufacturers to share their intellectual property for vaccines with other manufacturers they can also start to produce them, thereby increasing supply.

Intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds such as copyright, trademark, patent, utility model, and industrial design.

IP rights give the creator an exclusive right over the use of one’s creation for a certain period of time, ensuring that he is given due recognition or remuneration for his effort.

The governing local law is Republic Act 8293, otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.

The IP Code defined patentable inventions as any technical solution of a problem in any field of human activity which is new, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable shall be patentable. It may be, or may relate to, a product, or process, or an improvement of any of the foregoing. The law likewise gave an enumeration of non-patentable inventions.

The right to a patent belongs to the inventor, his heirs, or assigns. When two (2) or more persons have jointly made an invention, the right to a patent shall belong to them jointly.

The Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan  (SVBB) law offices is considered as one of the front-running law firms in the country engaged in intellectual property prosecution, maintenance, licensing, and enforcement.

The forty-five (45) years of existence of SVBB law offices, during which it witnessed episodes of political turmoil and economic crisis, are a testament to the sterling character and resilience of the partners, lawyers, and staff of the firm.

Established on August 1, 1976, the heart and soul of SVBB was forged by the vision and leadership of its founders, classmates Eugene A. Tan and Ignacio Sapalo, both of the Ateneo School of Law.

Aside from intellectual property law, SVBB later evolved into a full-service law firm with diversified practice areas in Philippine law, including corporation/taxation, litigation, and labor (specifically seafarers’ claims) with branch offices in Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, and Cagayan de Oro.

“Serving with a heart; driven to master change”  is SVBB’s motto that captures succinctly what the firm is, its culture, and values in the protection of the clients’ interests with sensitivity, care, and attention.

“When the world has put a stop to this pandemic, it will usher in many changes, hopefully, to make the world better.  Our firm’s motto, “Driven to Master Change”, should come into play. This pandemic drove home the lesson that to stay safe, we need everybody to stay safe.  In plain language this means that we should not only think of our own interests but also those of others,” says Atty.  Sapalo, managing partner on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the SVBB law firm.

Recognized as the “Father of the IP Code”, Atty. Sapalo was the former Director of the then Bureau of Patents, Trademarks, and Technology Transfer (now the IPOPhil) who worked on the passing of the IP Code in 1998 which aligned Philippine intellectual property laws with international standards and practices.

Atty. Sapalo stressed that on the lawyer’s shoulders fall the challenging task of ferreting out the truth in every case they handle, carefully balancing contending interests to reach fair and just results, and always staying within the bounds of the rule of law.

Given the important role of Filipino seafarers, SVBB also remains to be one of the leading movers advocating seafarers’ rights through initiatives showcasing its commitment to the principle of social justice.

As the life of a seafarer is not a walk in the park, the SVBB cooperates with various stakeholders, such as the church-based Apostleship of the Seas (AoS)/ Stella Maris Philippines,  in ensuring better protection and more benefits for seafarers.

SVBB is committed to perform the noble task of upholding justice with excellence and professionalism, for the good and interest of society, especially the poor and underprivileged.

(Atty. Dennis Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)

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