WHAT’s IN A NAME, by Atty. Adrian S. Cristobal
The Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 will be signed into law any day now by President Arroyo. The original bills from both houses of Congress were focused on amending Republic Act 8293, known as the Intellectual Property (IP) Code. The premise was that the intellectual-property system is crucial to promote creativity and innovation, and with a bit of tinkering, it can be made more responsive to the needs of a developing country and, in this instance, public health.
Although provisions on price regulation and amending the generics law took center stage in the debate as the compromise bill entered its final stages, the impact of the IP system on our development goals and our daily lives is not lost to policymakers and the public. The Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act is a landmark law that will address the country’s requirements for public health, one of the eight priority areas of the Philippine Intellectual-Property Policy Strategy (PIPPS).
Now, we move on to another strategic area of public policy, where the IP system also plays a critical role: technological development and competitiveness. Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya of the First District of Cavite has filed House Bill No. 3270 that aims to build up the technological base of the Philippine economy by encouraging technology transfer and commercialization.
In his explanatory note, Representative Abaya correctly observes that technology transfer and innovation have been “very much at the center of policies on economic development” of developed countries, which explains their economic growth and productivity. Technological innovations emanating from high-quality scientific research institutions are the key factors that sustain their economic growth.
Representative Abaya, citing the 2006-2007 Global Competitiveness Report, laments that “the Philippines is ranked 71st out of 125 countries in terms of technological readiness or ability to adopt technologies from home or abroad to enhance the productivity of its industries. This is in contrast with the high rankings of our Asian neighbors like Singapore [2nd], Hong Kong [13th], Korea [18th], Japan [19th], Malaysia [28th] and Thailand [48th]. In the area of innovation or the ability to produce brand-new technologies, the country ranks a dismal 79th. Compared to emerging innovation powerhouses in the Asean like Singapore [9th], Malaysia [21st], Indonesia [37th] and Thailand [33rd], the Philippines has a lot of catching up to do in terms of innovation.”
House Bill 3270 aims to foster a “conducive policy environment with strong support from public and private sectors” and address the “weakest link in the country’s innovation system…the process of transferring and commercializing the results of R&D, particularly those undertaken by government-funded R&D institutions [RDIs].”
One of the crucial elements in successful technology transfer and commercialization is, in the words of Representative Abaya, “a well-defined intellectual-property regime.” HB 3270, drawing lessons from legislation in the United States and the United Kingdom, will allow publicly funded RDIs to commercialize their innovations, which will generate not only economic but also social benefits.
Like the Access to Affordable Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008, this law on IP and technology transfer and commercialization will, if passed, be another landmark piece of legislation. It may not have the drama of the former, with its powerful interest groups against public-interest advocates, but this law will have the same strategic impact on our society and can change the face of the Philippine economy in the near future.
The author is the director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines. Comments may be sent to e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.