THE Philippines is “way behind” on intellectual property (IP) rights protections, a crucial consideration for investors deciding to put money in the country, the Geneva Network said in a report released to journalists Tuesday.

“The Philippines is quite some way behind the global leaders like the US and Japan. It’s doing relatively okay compared to some neighbors like Vietnam and Indonesia and Thailand,” said Geneva Network’s Executive Director Philip Stevens.

Geneva Network is a public policy research organization.

He said that as ASEAN countries shift from manufacturing to higher-value knowledge businesses, intellectual property rights protection will be key.

The report noted that the Philippines has been strengthening its IP protection framework in recent years, but implementation is still a challenge.

“IP infringement is not considered to be a serious crime and is therefore often a low priority for the authorities and judiciary. Life science patents are becoming more difficult to obtain and there are concerns that compulsory licensing could become more widely used,” the report said.

Similar to other ASEAN countries, the Philippines has a backlog in patent applications. Mr. Stevens said that patents take around three to four years for approval in the Philippines.

He also pointed out the uneven patent treatment of medicines that are being repurposed from their original applications.

“In the Philippines, national law limits patentability of new formulations and new uses of existing medicines,” the report said.

Copyright infringement is also a challenge, including the online piracy of software and films. The Philippines is behind Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand in copyright system strength of the 2019 International IP index.

Mr. Stevens noted that trademark protections are a consideration for foreign investment, with investors wary to operate where trademarks are routinely infringed in the form of counterfeit goods.

The Philippines is behind Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam on trademark enforcement in the 2019 international IP index. It scores higher than Indonesia and Thailand.

“The Philippines has determined to pursue continuous improvement in fighting against counterfeiting as the biggest IP issue faced by the country,” the report said.

Mr. Stevens added that with better IP protections, the Philippines may have an opportunity to attract investment fleeing China during the trade war. — Jenina P. Ibañez