Philippines

The Filipino government’s efforts to strengthen IP rights protection are paying off. In its 2019 report, the Global Innovation Index placed the country at 54, up from 73 the previous year. Anti-ceounterfeiting efforts are starting to pay off, as the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights seized nearly $12.74 million worth of counterfeit and pirated goods between January and April 2019 – 89% less than the same period last year. Madrid applications have also remained a popular choice among businesses, with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) receiving almost 30,000 applications in its sixth year as a member of the Madrid Protocol. To keep up the pace of reform, the IPOPHL submitted a bill to amend the IP Code in early 2019, pushing for new measures including the power to take down online sites that violate IP rights. At the same time, it has been working with the Supreme Court to accelerate the disposal of IP-related cases by establishing more specialised commercial courts that have the power to issue search warrants.

Firms

  • Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)
  • Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia 
  • Hechanova & Co Inc
  • Quisumbing Torres
  • SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan 
  • Baranda & Associates, an affiliated law firm to Rouse
  • Federis & Associates
  • Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles
  • Villaraza & Angangco 
  • Bengzon Negre Untalan
  • Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento
  • Bucoy Poblador & Associates
  • Esguerra & Blanco Law Offices
  • MarksPro
  • Poblador Bautista & Reyes
  • Sapalo Velez Bundang & Bulilan

Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)

“The biggest IP practice in the Philippines by headcount, ACCRALAW is known to represent parties in IP landmark cases before the Supreme Court.” Featuring the highest number of ranked individuals in this chapter, the full-service law firm provides gold-standard work on all aspects of trademark rights protection from filing, anti-counterfeiting and enforcement to licensing and franchising. Head of the IP department Alex Ferdinand Fider has published extensively on local IP legislation while lecturing on IP law at the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University. His colleagues Jose Eduardo Genilo and Victor De Leon specialise in anti-counterfeiting and trademark prosecution, respectively. Of counsel and senior politician Aleli Angela Quirino graces our new luminaries table this year. The niece of a former president of the Philippines presided over the ASEAN-IP Association from 2017 to 2019.

Baranda & Associates, an affiliated law firm to Rouse

For a decade, Baranda & Associates has displayed “a keen understanding of trademark issues in the Philippines and dedication to customer service”. Through its affiliation with international IP firm Rouse, it serves many international clients and has taken over entire trademark portfolios for various multinationals, including VF Corporation, Reckitt Benckiser Corporate Services Limited and Revlon. Over the past year, the IP boutique has been ramping up its enforcement practice and has played a crucial role in the seizure of more than 43,000 pairs of counterfeit Wrangler jeans (10 truckloads), almost 5,000 pairs of counterfeit LEE jeans and 3,760 counterfeit THE NORTH FACE backpacks in three separate operations. “Responsive and proactive with his advice,” founder of the eponymous firm Edmund Baranda focuses his practice on trademark enforcement. After examining trademarks at the IPOPHL for seven years, Claire Corral now prosecutes trademarks for multinationals with conspicuous flair.

Bengzon Negre Untalan

An IP boutique with a cutting-edge management information system and special software for managing client portfolios, Bengzon Negre Untalan has specialists in intellectual property and information technology to handle the full spectrum of IP matters and has won particular praise for its prowess in enforcement. Ferdinand Negre is the key contact.

Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento

Established in 2011, Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento has been going from strength to strength. The full-service firm currently handles more than 2,200 trademarks for clients across various industries. It is also the exclusive partner of the Regional Emergency Assistance Communications Team (REACT), an organisation that gathers and disseminates information rapidly in the Philippines, rendering IP advice to REACT’s network. After leading the IP and IT group at Baker McKenzie (Philippines) for two years, Andre Philippe Betita co-founded Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento, where he continues to manage trademark portfolios and participate in enforcement actions today.

Bucoy Poblador & Associates

Bucoy Poblador & Associates is a mid-sized full-service law firm that has served domestic and international companies in IP matters since it merged with Charles T Balcoff in 1951. Not only does the outfit provide clients with a comprehensive electronic database of patents and trademarks issued locally, it also automates all its operational areas to deliver an array of IP services optimally. Seasoned in trial and appellate litigation, managing partner Antonio Bucoy has represented clients in high-profile cases and dispensed legal advice to current and past presidents of the Philippines.

Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia 

Emerging in the gold tier this year, Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia has become an essential partner to domestic companies. The IP department’s team of 12 – many of whom are lawyers with a technical background – regularly receives instructions to protect homegrown brands abroad for clients such as Filinvest Land and Max’s Group, as their businesses expand globally. Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia is the third largest law firm in the Philippines, not least because it is constantly innovating and improving work efficiency. One of its greatest advantages is that all  IP litigation is handled by specialised lawyers who are thoroughly familiar with the related laws, jurisprudence and concepts – they are thus instrumental in establishing jurisprudence in the Philippines, particularly for legal grey areas. Head of the IP department Susan Villanueva represented In-N-Out Burger in the Supreme Court of the Philippines, which led to IN-N-OUT being declared the first internationally well-known trademark by the court. The New York-qualified IP veteran is a legal sharpshooter for IP litigation and enforcement cases, and a professorial lecturer of IP law at the University of Philippines and the De La Salle College of Law. The IP team further distinguishes itself from the competition by working closely with the corporate team to handle IP commercialisation and valuation matters involving technology transfers. Patricia Bunye is a licensing expert, having served as president of the Licensing Executives Society (LES) International in 2016. She and Divina Gracia Pedron, an IP litigation and brand protection specialist, regularly lecture in continuing legal education classes in the Philippines.

Esguerra & Blanco Law Offices

General law firm Esguerra & Blanco Law Offices puts clients at the forefront of its services by establishing long-term relationships to provide the best solution to all their legal needs. The firm’s IP practice encompasses the A-Z of trademarks, patents and copyrights across industries, although its strength lies in trademark litigation. Managing partner Ramon Esguerra has had an illuminating career in the domestic IP scene, having been president of LES Philippines from 2004 to 2006, followed by the Intellectual Property Association of the Philippines (IPAP) from 2009 to 2011.

Federis & Associates

Widely known and consistently recognised as a huge trademark filer, Federis & Associates is an IP boutique with “a great understanding of Western law and mentality”. Through “seamless cooperation, a high degree of engagement, excellent work and friendly service”, the “highly dynamic” team provides “a truly positive experience” for its clients, which include global corporations seeking assistance with enforcement and trademark infringement matters. Co-founding managing partner Mila Federis is an active member of INTA and LES. Her colleague Amanda Carlota deserves a mention too. As a satisfied client proclaims: “She went far out of her way to bring our matter to a successful conclusion, achieving amicable settlement by being personally engaged. Beyond her great client-oriented attitude and responsiveness, she understands cross-border issues and provides concise, practical advice on the local law.”

Hechanova & Co Inc

On the back of effusive praise from foreign associates, Hechanova & Co rises to the gold tier this year. “With quality services and competitive prices, it is our loyal and long-term partner.” “Diligence, proactiveness, responsiveness and a close relationship – these are special characteristics about the team’s service. It provides individualised treatment to us, which ensures a good business relationship.” The full-service law firm devotes 70% of its practice to contentious IP matters on behalf of companies from all over the world. In the prosecution space, it is also a force to be reckoned with. In 2018 it was the second highest trademark filer, filing more than 20 applications for 2GO Group, the largest premier logistics provider in the Philippines. The side is no stranger to commercial IP matters either, as it regularly advises on trademark licensing agreements and negotiates settlements. Founder Editha Hechanova draws high praise from her foreign associates: “She is one of the most highly skilled professionals in the IP field. Her zeal for her work is wonderful and her client-facing skills are simply outstanding, along with her ability to generate options. She is a very well-organised and committed professional. Her energy, enthusiasm and die-hard attitude make her a winner.” “She has a high level of extensive knowledge on local trademark matters and provides excellent advice.” “She understands our clients’ business and special needs, presenting satisfactory results.”

MarksPro

Making its sophomore appearance in the WTR 1000 this year, MarksPro is an IP boutique manned by a team of five professionals, who deliver creative and practical solutions to the full range of IP issues. From start-ups to multinationals, clients can depend on MarksPro to prosecute and enforce trademarks, as well as conduct IP audits and investigations. A familiar face at anti-counterfeiting matters and raids, founder and experienced IP practitioner Regina Reyes-Rara is “very active in IP enforcement and IP portfolio management”. She currently chairs INTA’s East Asia and Pacific anti-counterfeiting sub-committee.

Poblador Bautista & Reyes

For the past 25 years, full-service law firm Poblador Bautista & Reyes has been offering advice on various legal matters to companies of all sizes. Its IP practice covers trademark registration and technology transfer, as well as international liaison and support work for global clients, including the Association of American Publishers. Founding partner Gilbert Raymund Reyes tops the enforcement and litigation table for the 10th year in a row. The director of IPAP in 1991 used to lecture on IP law at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Quisumbing Torres

In line with the high quality of service promised by Baker McKenzie worldwide, Quisumbing Torres provides top legal expertise in every aspect of IP protection and rises to the apex of the table. “The IP team displays outstanding professionalism and an incredible level of service. Its lawyers are consistent and straightforward with a business-focused approach. Not only do they manage working hours efficiently, they are conscious about the value for money proposition of their clients. They are one of the best and have proven that many times over in my books.” The side recently achieved a landmark decision before the Supreme Court for Mang Inasal Philippines in a trademark opposition case, while it continues to carry out innovative anti-counterfeiting activities and collaborate closely with government agencies. Head of the IP practice group Bienvenido A Marquez III tops the prosecution and enforcement table. As a 2018 INTA Volunteer Service Awardee for the Advancement of the Association, he was the first Filipino IP practitioner to be recognised by the association. Deeply involved in enforcement cases for multinationals, Divina Pastora Ilas-Panganiban rises to the silver tier of the enforcement table. Chair of the IP rights committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, she is “one of the best in the country” and “heavily involved in the continuing development of local IP policies, which makes her expertise and personal knowledge about anything IP-related a cut above the rest”.

Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles

As well as its strength in corporate law, Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles holds its own in the IP arena. As the exclusive member firm for Lex Mundi, the outfit offers its clients access to more than 21,000 lawyers around the world for the swift resolution of cross-border transactions and disputes. In the IP field, it deals with all matters from prosecution and enforcement to commercial issues. Peers speak highly of Rogelio Nicandro, head of the IP practice, describing him as “a highly-respected IP practitioner”, who has held multiple executive positions in local legal organisations.

Sapalo Velez Bundang & Bulilan

A general law firm that prides itself in its skill and expertise in IP law, Sapalo Velez Bundang & Bulilan also champions seafarers’ rights and provides pro bono services across its five offices. The core IP team, which numbers six in total, includes past IPOPH officers, while the team has been organising IP audit seminar projects for top executives and key personnel at local companies since last year. Managing partner Ignacio Sapalo is a former director of the then Bureau of Patents, Trademark and Technology Transfer, now IPOPH.

SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan 

SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan maintains its top spot in the WTR 1000 as the biggest law firm in the Philippines, with one of the largest local IP practices. Founded in 1945, it has built strong global networks by joining various exclusive international lawyers’ associations, enabling clients from all over the world to tap into their extensive expertise. After more than three decades in the IP field, Enrique Manuel is stepping down from his leadership position in the IP department, although he continues to dispense sage advice as of counsel. Vida Panganiban-Alindogan takes up the reins as the new head of intellectual property. For more than 20 years, she has been advising on the management, prosecution and enforcement of IP rights.

Villaraza & Angangco 

Villaraza & Angangco (V&A Law) rises to the silver tier this year. In what has been a fruitful 12 months, the full-service law firm has added BDO Unibank Inc (the largest universal bank in the Philippines with a broad, multi-jurisdictional IP portfolio) and BigHit Entertainment (manager of boy band BTS) to its client base. Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics, Kia Motors and SK Planet consistently prefer to instruct the group to prosecute trademarks, because it provides “complete and fast solutions”. At the same time, it takes on big-ticket litigation cases for the biggest domestic companies, including Petron Corporation, which has engaged V&A Law in several criminal cases involving trademark infringement. IP commercialisation – a rare service in the Philippines – is also within the firm’s purview, as it advises on technology transfer and trademark licence agreements for global companies. With 30 years’ experience in the IP field, Bienvenido I Somera Jr heads the “dedicated” team of nine IP lawyers in the IP department. “He is highly regarded in the local legal community as a top IP lawyer. Not only does he provide exemplary, high-quality and timely responses to our queries, he can provide legal solutions to difficult solutions.” Lately, he has been busy handling trademark opposition cases for ABS-CBN Corporation against Apple. Junior partner Katrina V Doble also earns a spot in the WTR 1000 this year for “always providing practical solutions to the various legal queries and welcoming further dialogue and clarifications”. She is “an invaluable partner” to her clients’ internal IP counsel.

Other recommended experts

Over at Cesar C Cruz & Partners, Cesar Cruz has established a reputable commercial and contentious IP practice. On the back of effusive praise from her clients, Maria Theresa C Gonzales at Veralaw earns a well-deserved place in the WTR 1000 this year. “By applying legal and commercial reasoning, Theresa renders reasonable trademark clearance opinions and sound advice in a very timely manner. She is also extremely professional and very personable, so we’ve developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional one.” “Having met with Theresa on numerous occasions, it’s easier and more effective to work with her. I know I can rely on her and her team to ensure that our trademarks are well taken care of.” Maria Trinidad Villareal of Carag Jamora Somera and Villareal Law Offices joins her counterparts in the enforcement and litigation table on peer recommendation.

Individuals: enforcement and litigation

  • Bienvenido A Marquez III - Quisumbing Torres
  • Rogelio Nicandro - Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles
  • Gilbert Raymund Reyes - Poblador Bautista & Reyes
  • Patricia AO Bunye - Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia
  • Ramon S Esguerra - Esguerra & Blanco Law Offices
  • Editha R Hechanova - Hechanova & Co Inc
  • Divina Pastora V Ilas-Panganiban - Quisumbing Torres
  • Regina Reyes-Rara - MarksPro
  • Bienvenido I Somera Jr - Villaraza & Angangco 
  • Susan D Villanueva - Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia
  • Edmund Baranda - Baranda & Associates, an affiliated law firm to Rouse
  • Victor N De Leon - Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)
  • Mila Federis - Federis & Associates
  • Jose Eduardo T Genilo - Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)
  • Maria Trinidad Villareal - Carag Jamora Somera and Villareal Law Offices

Individuals: prosecution and strategy

  • Alex Ferdinand Fider - Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)
  • Bienvenido A Marquez III - Quisumbing Torres
  • Andre Philippe G Betita - Betita Cabilao Casuela Sarmiento
  • Patricia AO Bunye - Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia
  • Mila Federis - Federis & Associates
  • Editha R Hechanova - Hechanova & Co Inc
  • Regina Reyes-Rara - MarksPro
  • Bienvenido I Somera Jr - Villaraza & Angangco 
  • Antonio Z Bucoy - Bucoy Poblador & Associates
  • Claire Corral - Baranda & Associates, an affiliated law firm to Rouse
  • Victor N De Leon - Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)
  • Katrina V Doble - Villaraza & Angangco 
  • Jose Eduardo T Genilo - Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)
  • Maria Theresa C Gonzales - Veralaw 
  • Divina Pastora V Ilas-Panganiban - Quisumbing Torres
  • Vida M Panganiban-Alindogan - SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan
  • Divina Gracia E Pedron - Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia
  • Ignacio S Sapalo - Sapalo Velez Bundang & Bulilan

Luminaries

  • Cesar Cruz - Cesar C Cruz & Partners
  • Enrique T Manuel - SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan
  • Aleli Angela G Quirino - Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW)