For the fifth year in a row, the Philippines has remained off the European Commission’s biennial watchdog Report on the Protection and Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in Third Countries. The report, which was published in May, identifies third countries in which the state of IP rights protection and enforcement (online and offline) causes the EU the greatest level of concern.
Priority countries are selected based on several indicators including level of importance for EU operators, level of counterfeiting and piracy, level or quality of IP legislation, level of effectiveness of the implementation of legislation, attitude in bilateral relations and level of respect for IP rights in international fora, level of respect for legal decisions in international fora (e.g. World Trade Organisation dispute settlement); and level of economic development (e.g. gross national income per capita levels, World Bank index ranking).
According to the IP Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) Director General Rowel Barba, the Philippines’ consistent exclusion from the watch list is a testament to the office’s continuing efforts to safeguard the country’s investment attractiveness by fighting counterfeiting and piracy.
The number of reports and complaints of counterfeiting and piracy that the IPOPHIL received from January to November 2022 dropped 40% from the same period the previous year. The drastic decrease can be attributed to the office’s partnerships with various stakeholders, a notable example of which is the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between popular e-commerce platforms and brand owners to establish a code of practice for protecting IP rights online.
The MoU was signed on 1 March 2021, but more signatories have since joined, bringing the total number of members to 27. New signatories include two pharmaceutical companies, whose involvement is expected to aid the IPOPHIL in its goal of removing the Philippines’ citation as a source of counterfeit medicines from the US Trade Representative’s annual Special 301 Report, an annual review of IP protection globally.
While the country has managed to stay off the Special 301 Report watch list for the past decade, the report nonetheless mentioned a 2020 study conducted by the OECD and the EU IP Office that named the Philippines among the “leading sources of counterfeit medicines distributed globally”.
Another the IPOPHIL’s initiatives is by promoting geographical indications. For the past two years, the office has partnered with IP Key Southeast Asia, a project of the European Commission and the EU IP Office, to hold a National Forum on Geographical Indications, staging lectures and sharing best practices.
According to the IPOPHIL’s Rules and Regulations on Geographical Indications, which took effect in November last year, a geographical indication is “any indication which identifies a good as originating in a territory, region or locality, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and/or human factors”.
The workshops have since borne fruit. Mangoes from the island province of Guimaras, which had already been registered as a collective mark, officially became the Philippines’ first registered geographical indication when the IPOPHIL’s Bureau of Trademarks approved the application filed by the Guimaras Mango Growers and Producers Development Co-operative (GMGPDC).
The GMGPDC describes the Guimaras mango as a typical Carabao mango variety characterised by a distinct shape, an average weight of at least 160 grams, and a thin seed that makes more than 80% of the flesh edible. It has been dubbed “the sweetest mango” due to having a sweetness of at least 16 degrees brix, or grams of soluble sugar compounds per 100 grams. These qualities are attributable to the province’s calcareous soil, which is rich in calcium and magnesium, and climate, with planting starting from June to November and harvesting in May.
Other candidates for geographical indications include Lake Sebu T’nalak hand-woven cloth and the Bicol pili nut tree, both of which are also registered collective marks, as well as an assortment of agricultural products, foodstuffs, wines and spirits, clothing and textiles, and handicrafts from all around the country.
Due to recent events, copyright and related rights have been hot topics in the news. This coincides with the IPOPHIL’s Bureau of Copyright and Related Rights’ invitation to stakeholders and the general public to a public consultation on the proposed rules and regulations for the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, the Rights of Sound Performers and Producers of Sound Recordings, and the Term of Copyright Protection and the Public Domain. Interested parties were given until 24 June to send their comments for the bureau’s consideration.
AMANDA CARLOTA is an associate lawyer at Federis & Associates Law Office
FEDERIS & ASSOCIATES LAW OFFICES
Suites 2004 and 2005,
88 Corporate Centre
141 Valero St, Salcedo Village
Makati City 1227, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 8889 6197-98