IPOPHL steps up campaign against piracy, counterfeiting

It is undeniable that the pandemic has created opportunities for many unlawful tradings, but the country’s sole intellectual property guardian, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines that administers, implements and files legal action when necessary, ensures that all the intellectual property (IP) rights holders are protected.

It is interesting to note that reports and complaints on suspected counterfeiting and piracy filed at the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) surged to 121 in 2020.

Data from IPOPHL’s IP Rights Enforcement Office (IEO) show that the majority or 67 of alleged violations concerned counterfeiting while the remaining 54 were on the illegal sharing and selling of copyrighted works. 

Of these, four were verified complaints from intellectual property (IP) rights holders––which is a first step to pursuing sanctions––while the remaining 117 were reports from consumers and concerned citizens.

About 116 were disposed of or saw completed appropriate action from IPOPHL and the IP owners while five cases are pending verification for appropriate action.

Of the total counterfeiting reports, alleged fake apparels were the most reported with 39 or about 77%, followed by gadgets with seven (10%) and cosmetics with six (9%).

Meanwhile, movies and shows were the most reported for alleged piracy with 22, accounting for 40% in the category. E-books trailed behind with 14 reports or a 25% share, followed by software products with 9 or 16%.

Some 90% of the reports and complaints were sold and marketed online, with Facebook (61%), Unpopular websites (13%) Shopee (12%), Lazada (7%) and Youtube (2%) as the top platforms used. 

To note, IPOPHL introduced a new reporting system to narrow down the focus to only counterfeiting and piracy, making the 2020 data incomparable to previous years which included other IP infringement cases such as confusingly similar marks.  

Even with this change, IPOPHL Deputy Director General Teodoro C. Pascua noted there remains an “obviously striking surge” in counterfeiting and piracy activities as the 2020 figure, despite factoring in less variables, surpassed the 100 reports and complaints received by IEO from 2016 to 2019.

“The exponential growth in online activities during the pandemic created the perfect entry point for pirates and counterfeiters as they took advantage of both legitimate (e.g e-commerce sites, social media) and illicit avenues (e.g dark web sites),” Pascua said.

“In addition, the disruption in supply chains gave counterfeiters an opportunity to fill the gap with substandard, IP infringing products. The environment was equally lucrative for content pirates as people sought to find free sources of entertainment with many spending most of their time at home,” he added.

Action plan

The National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR)––which IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba currently heads as the permanent representative of Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez who chairs the NCIPR––will be focusing on five key strategies to deter fakes and piracy throughout the year: 

  1. Enhance capacities of NCIPR members on IP enforcement, from screening the online space to building investigative tactics for proven violations to proceed to criminal prosecution;
  2. Strengthen collaboration with pertinent government partners to raise awareness and ensure government regulations do not hamper but, instead, streamline enforcement action;
  3. Help IP right holders develop and efficiently implement an IP rights enforcement strategy that is responsive to the times, including keeping them abreast of the evolving trends in counterfeiting and piracy operations;
  4. Engage with intermediaries such as e-commerce platforms, payment gateways and internet service providers, among others, to develop a coordinative, proactive mechanism; and
  5. Help improve border controls.

“As intellectual property products have been identified as a major growth driver to the economy in the fourth quarter of an exceptionally tumultuous year, there must be a renewed urgency for a wider crackdown on counterfeiting and piracy,” Barba said. 

“The crackdown we need must engage the active participation of regulating bodies, enforcement authorities, local governments, lawmakers, intermediaries and IP right holders themselves. Together, we must develop effective offensive strategies that compel nationwide action to safeguard IPs, the very tools that can jumpstart our recovery and revitalize the Philippine economic growth story,” Barba added. 

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