The Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (TRACIT) has cited the Philippines as a significant force and model of success in the ASEAN region in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy, thanks to the work of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) and the 15-member National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR).
“Strengthening interagency and interdepartmental cooperation is essential in the fight against illicit trade. The Philippines has emerged as a regional leader in promoting domestic cooperation, particularly in IP coordination because of the successful enforcement work done by [IPOPHL and the NCIPR],” read the TRACIT report titled “Fighting Fakes, Contraband and Illicit Trade: Spotlight on The Philippines.”
To recall, IPOPHL had led the ASEAN’s Working Group on IP Cooperation (AWGIPPIC) and accelerated the accomplishment of the ASEAN IP Rights Action Plan (AIPRAP) 2016-2025 despite the pandemic. Deliverables completed increased to 75% in March 2023 from 36% in March 2021 when IPOPHL started its chairmanship. IPOPHL also took the helm at the ASEAN Network of IP Enforcement Experts (ANIEE) in which the Philippines leads 13 out of 19 enforcement-related initiatives under the AIPRAP.
At present, IPOPHL is taking on a broader regional role as chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Intellectual Property Rights Experts Group (APEC-IPEG). Nearly a year with APEC-IPEG, the Philippine leadership is helping steer meaningful discussions and capacity-building activities in IP financing, IP in the digital economy, IP for sustainable and inclusive growth and other cross-cutting issues.
Positive results from IPOPHL, NCIPR work
The TRACIT report added that the NCIPR “serves as an excellent example of successful intergovernmental coordination efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy.” Created in 2008 through Executive Order 736, the NCIPR is a coordinating interagency body that formulates and implements plans and policies to enhance the protection and enforcement of IP rights in the Philippines. It is led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as chair and IPOPHL as vice-chair and secretariat.
“Through the collaborative efforts of [the NCIPR’s] member agencies, the Philippines remained off the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Watchlist for eight consecutive years since 2014. The Philippines also remained off the latest European Union (EU) IPR Watchlist released [in December 2022]… The effectiveness of the NCIPR is evidenced by a significant increase in seizures. Over a 10-year period from 2008 to 2018, the value of seized counterfeit goods grew by an average of 55% annually,” read the report, adding that the NCIPR made a historic achievement by seizing almost P25 billion worth of counterfeit goods, the biggest haul in its fourteen-year history.
TRACIT also recognized IPOPHL’s intensified work in protecting IP rights in the online space, adding that its efforts to band together with law enforcement agencies, rights holders and platforms “have yielded good results.”
Among these positive results are the 2021 E-Commerce Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which IPOPHL helps oversee. The E-Commerce MOU is a commitment between e-commerce platforms, including Lazada, Shopee, Zalora and several global and local brand owners and business associations. The E-Commerce MOU membership recently grew to 34 with the signing of Tiktok, Greenstone Pharmaceutical and Quadgen Pharmaceutical at the IP Enforcement Summit last week.
Another success story spotlighted in the TRACIT report is the launch of IPOPHL’s site-blocking rules which aim to disrupt access to pirated websites. The rules were the outcome of years of consultative work with local internet service providers (ISPs) and the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC).
The report also cited the MOU signed between IPOPHL and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to train airport personnel to spot counterfeit and pirated goods as an example of a collaborative work that can improve detection and enforcement efforts.
The report stressed IPOPHL’s “pivotal role” in driving a multi-stakeholder collaboration given its active approach to improve enforcement standards and its “unique enforcement mandate.”
At present, IPOPHL is one of the few IP offices in the world with an enforcement power that allows it to coordinate raids and seizures of counterfeit goods with the Philippines National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Customs and local government units.
While key IP rights measures are in place in the country, TRACIT said the implementation of these provisions need to be strengthened and streamlined to ensure efficiency.
The report recommended more efforts to prevent the flow of illegal goods across borders; strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries; boost investments in IP rights enforcement; expedite the resolution of IP-related criminal cases; and strengthen and enforce criminal penalties.
It also proposed tightening controls on money laundering; implementing coherent domestic tax policies; enhancing transparency and accountability; empowering consumers through awareness; improving controls in the digital environment and promoting the creation of local private-public partnerships.
Currently, the Philippines ranks 64th out of 84 countries in the Global Illicit Trade Environment Index which assesses the structural capability of a country to protect itself against illicit trade. With an overall score of 49.0 (out of 100), this is slightly above the ASEAN average (46) but well below the global average (60).
The report said the Philippines is losing over P500 billion annually in revenues due to tax evasion crimes, which are often associated with illicit trade activities, such as counterfeiting, smuggling and money laundering.
The country report, released by TRACIT this November, was presented at the IP Enforcement Summit held by IPOPHL this week with the theme “Strategies for a Resilient Market and Digital Space.” At the event, IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba and TRACIT Director of Programs Louis Bonnier signed a MOU to bolster cooperation on the exchange of best practices and knowledge on IP protection, utilization and enforcement.
TRACIT is an independent, private sector initiative with the mission to mitigate the economic and social damages of illicit trade by strengthening government enforcement mechanisms and mobilizing businesses across industry sectors most impacted by illicit trade.