November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Commercial Law

Here are selected November 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:

Intellectual property; right of patentees. It is clear from Section 37 of Republic Act No. 165 that the exclusive right of a patentee to make, use and sell a patented product, article or process exists only during the term of the patent. In the instant case, Philippine Letters Patent No. 21116, which was the basis of respondents in filing their complaint with the BLA-IPO, was issued on July 16, 1987. This fact was admitted by respondents themselves in their complaint. They also admitted that the validity of the said patent is until July 16, 2004, which is in conformity with Section 21 of RA 165, providing that the term of a patent shall be seventeen (17) years from the date of issuance thereof. Section 4, Rule 129 of the Rules of Court provides that an admission, verbal or written, made by a party in the course of the proceedings in the same case, does not require proof and that the admission may be contradicted only by showing that it was made through palpable mistake or that no such admission was made. In the present case, there is no dispute as to respondents’ admission that the term of their patent expired on July 16, 2004. Neither is there evidence to show that their admission was made through palpable mistake. Hence, contrary to the pronouncement of the CA, there is no longer any need to present evidence on the issue of expiration of respondents’ patent.  Phil Pharmawealth, Inc. vs. Pfizer, Inc and Pfizer (Phil.) Inc., G.R. No. 167715, November 17, 2010.

Intra-corporate dispute; definition.  An intra-corporate dispute is understood as a suit arising from intra-corporate relations or between or among stockholders or between any or all of them and the corporation.  Applying what has come to be known as the relationship test, it has been held that the types of actions embraced by the foregoing definition include the following suits: (a) between the corporation, partnership or association and the public; (b) between the corporation, partnership or association and its stockholders, partners, members, or officers; (c) between the corporation, partnership or association and the State insofar as its franchise, permit or license to operate is concerned; and, (d) among the stockholders, partners or associates themselves.  As the definition is broad enough to cover all kinds of controversies between stockholders and corporations, the traditional interpretation was to the effect that the relationship test brooked no distinction, qualification or any exemption whatsoever.

However, the unqualified application of the relationship test has been modified on the ground that the same effectively divests regular courts of jurisdiction over cases for the sole reason that the suit is between the corporation and/or its corporators.  It was held that the better policy in determining which body has jurisdiction over a case would be to consider not only the status or relationship of the parties but also the nature of the question that is the subject of their controversy.  Under the nature of the controversy test, the dispute must not only be rooted in the existence of an intra-corporate relationship, but must also refer to the enforcement of the parties’ correlative rights and obligations under the Corporation Code as well as the internal and intra-corporate regulatory rules of the corporation.   The combined application of the relationship test and the nature of the controversy test has, consequently, become the norm in determining whether a case is an intra-corporate controversy or is purely civil in character.  Strategic Alliance Development Corporation vs. Star Infrastructure Development Corporation Corporation, BEDE S. Tabalingcos, et al., G.R. No. 187872, November 17, 2010.

(Note:  This post will be updated after the rest of the November 2010 cases become available.)