The Philippines, represented by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL), was one of 194 member-states attending the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) 64th Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of Member-States, held from 6 to 14 July in Geneva.
IPOPHIL Director General Rowel Barba told the international gathering the country is developing an IP strategy that is “transformative, inclusive and collaborative”.
Barba noted that the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 recognises the “significant role of IP in boosting production sectors in the country”, citing inclusion of a chapter on IP in the plan, as well as the IPOPHIL’s membership in national councils created under the Philippine Innovation Act and Philippine Creative Industries Development Act.
One sector that stands to benefit from these measures is the coconut industry. According to the Philippine Statistical Authority, exports of coconut products including fresh coconuts, coconut oil, oleochemicals, copra meal and desiccated coconut amounted to USD3.2 billion in 2022, representing 43% of all agriculture exports. Recognising the key export, the IPOPHIL has urged coconut producers and traders to include IP protection in their export marketing strategies.
Barba also emphasised the use of IP as an effective tool for inclusive growth through incentive programmes and capacity-building activities, especially those targeting under-represented groups such as youth, women and indigenous cultural communities. Underlining this strategy, recently issued rules and regulations on geographical indications (GIs) mark the establishment of a sui generis system of GI protection in the Philippines.
Lastly, he highlighted the IPOPHIL’s collaborations with international institutions such as the WIPO, Asean and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation.
In other IP news, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) intercepted PHP557.3 million (USD9.8 million) worth of counterfeit wearables at the port of Subic last month. The counterfeit goods were in 1,252 cartons shipped in a container from Dhaka, Bangladesh. They bore the logos of many well-known brands, both luxury and mainstream, in violation of the IP Code of the Philippines as well as the Customs Modernisation and Tariff Act.
The BOC is one of the 15 member agencies of the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR), of which the IPOPHIL is the acting chair. The IPOPHIL praised the BOC’s vigilance and unrelenting efforts in combating counterfeiting, having seized more than PHP21.3 billion worth of counterfeit goods in the first half of this year alone.
Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), another member of the NCIPR, seized more than PHP206 million worth of counterfeit luxury goods from various shopping malls in Parañaque and Pasay cities, and a warehouse in Bulacan province.
A study conducted by the EU IP Office and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development titled Dangerous Fakes: Trade in Counterfeit Goods that Pose Health, Safety and Environmental Risks, which was published last year, showed that, from 2017 to 2019, the Philippines ranked 15th among the top 25 countries of origin for counterfeit and pirated goods, while ranking 13th globally as a country of origin for “dangerous fakes” that posed health, safety and environmental risks.
The IPOPHIL announced last month that its enforcement office had received a total of 200 reports of counterfeiting and piracy from January to June 2023, representing a stunning 400% increase from the same period last year.
Piracy comprised the bulk of complaints, with the enforcement office receiving 152 such reports, 95% of which were for software. Notably, 135 of the piracy reports came from a single individual, who alerted the IPOPHIL about pirated gaming software. The remaining reports, filed by others, were for shows, movies, books and e-books.
The counterfeiting reports were mainly for apparel, perfume, beauty products and other accessories. The vast majority (91%) of reported incidents occurred online on various e-commerce retailers, social media platforms, and what the enforcement office dubbed “a collective of non-mainstream websites”.
Aside from enforcement, another priority of the IPOPHIL is educating the public on IP. In line with this, its bureau of copyright and related rights (BCRR) recently entered into a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the National Book Development Board (NBDB) to promote copyright awareness.
Pursuant to the MoA, the BCRR will bring its copyright caravan to book festivals and other events organised by the NBDB around the Philippines. Through the copyright caravan, the BCRR offers seminars, projects and activities.
AMANDA CARLOTA is an associate lawyer at Federis & Associates Law Office
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