In a public gathering attended by various IP stakeholders, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center, announced on April 16, 2015 a recently forged cooperation, which gives parties in dispute over IP rights the option to refer their IP disputes to WIPO’s mediation services.

To formalize this cooperation, IPOPHIL and WIPO signed a Memorandum of Understanding back in May 2014.  Under the Memorandum, IPOPHIL and WIPO established a joint dispute resolution procedure to facilitate the mediation of IP cases pending before IPOPHIL.

Currently, Office Order No. 154, Series of 2010 requires the following types of disputes lodged before the Bureau of Legal Affairs (BLA) to undergo mediation: (1) administrative complaint; (2) inter partes cases; (3) disputes involving technology transfer payments; (4) disputes relating to the terms of a license involving the author’s rights to public performance or other communication of his work; (5) cases appealed to the Office of the Director General (ODG) from decisions of the Bureau of Legal Affairs (BLA) and the Documentation, Information and Technology Transfer Bureau (DITTB); and (6)  other cases which may be referred to mediation during the settlement period declared by the Director General.  These cases are referred to IPOPHIL’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Services (ADRS).  The mediation is presided by a mediator, who is jointly appointed by the parties.  The idea for ADRS is to provide a forum, where parties can discuss their issues, and work towards reaching an amicable resolution.

With the newly launched program, beginning May 1, 2015, parties who are required to undergo mediation pursuant to Office Order No. 154 now have the option to mediate either through IPOPHIL’s ADRS or through the newly launched WIPO mediation procedure.  The parties are given a maximum of fifteen (15) calendar days to submit the Agreement and Request for WIPO mediation.  If the parties fail to submit the WIPO mediation form within the timeframe, then the IPOPHIL’s ADRS process will immediately resume.  It was also revealed that the cost for electing the WIPO mediation services is US$100 for administrative fees and US$100 per party for mediator’s fees, which includes 2 sessions of mediation with a maximum of 2 hours per session.  For any additional hours, each party shall be charged the amount of US$100 per hour.

While the IPOPHIL and WIPO touted the advantages of the WIPO mediation services as a welcome option for parties who are involved in related disputes in multiple jurisdictions, or those parties in disputes involving highly technical matters, the substantially higher costs, when compared to the IPOPHIL’s mediation procedures, may factor in a party’s choice of mediation forum.  While foreign entities may prefer the familiarity, stability and expertise that they perceive will be provided by WIPO’s mediation services, it remains to be seen whether local entities will be enticed into signing up for a WIPO supervised mediation given the substantially higher costs.  Ultimately, however, the new WIPO mediation services will give IP owners an additional choice of forum, when it comes to alternative dispute resolution of IP disputes in the Philippines.