Piracy has wrecked havoc on the economy of the Philippines, adversely affecting economic activity and stifling organized industry. While the Philippines remains in the Watch List of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the USTR has recognised the innovative and sustained efforts of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) to undertake effective enforcement strategies.
In 2010, IPOPHL embarked on a “Holistic Approach” in the country’s battle against piracy. This new strategy calls for concerted action whereby “each stakeholder, IP owner, user and enforcement agencies to play their respective crucial roles in safeguarding IP rights. Law enforcement agencies are mandated to further their coordination efforts at all levels to ensure that there are no loopholes for pirates to explore and no bottlenecks remaining unclogged.”
To address widespread piracy and counterfeiting, the Philippine Government adopted the following measures:
1. Establishment of an Operations Center in May 2010 that receives complaints from rights holders and if necessary, undertakes case build up to ensure prosecution of IPR violation cases.
2. Release of Php 10,000,000 (approximately US$ 227,272.73) from the Office of the President in October 2010 for the operational requirements of the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR) to include promotion, protection and enforcement of IPR.
3. Provided for a free warehouse facility which can be used by rights holders during the pendency of IPR violation cases. This was undertaken to address the cost of storage whenever there are seizures made and cases filed.
4. IPOPHL employees were deputized as agents of Optical Media Board (OMB) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) arming the latter with visitorial and enforcement powers for optical media products and on imported items in violation of the IP Code.
5. Checking on mall owners compliance by IPOPHL. In December 2010, IPOPHL wrote to Greenhills Shopping Center, an establishment notorious for its counterfeit goods, and requested the mall owner to disallow stalls or lessees selling counterfeit products. Violating lessees can expect to have their lease terminated and lessors may find their business licences cancelled and US travel visas revoked.
6. Strengthened internal mechanisms for disposition of IP cases.
Office Order No 186 was issued giving the rights holder an immediate remedy of a temporary restraining order upon complaint if the matter is of extreme urgency. There is also an arrangement with the Department of Justice to provide full- time prosecutors for the handling of IPR violation cases. Moreover, it is now possible to file appropriate legal actions for the cancellation of the business name of the erring establishments registered with the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The measures taken by the Philippine Government in 2010 have shown a heightened commitment to enforce IP rights and demonstrate a firm resolve to prosecute violators to the full. Philippines IPO director general Ricardo Blancaflor has said: “We are only one step away from being removed completely” from the USTR Watch List.