By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios
Photo and infographics from IPOPHL
True to its mandate to protect the intellectual property rights of the entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors in the country, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has received a total of 135 intellectual property (IP) violation reports from consumers and complaints from IP rights holders in the first nine months of the year, surpassing the 129 received in the previous five years up to 2019.
The reports and complaints were received by the IP Rights Enforcement Office (IEO) which has disposed of 108 or 80% of the total. Meanwhile, the remaining 27 are in different stages of validation.
Fifty-one or about 38% did not involve counterfeiting and piracy but were IP infringement matters such as two entities having similar marks or unauthorized use of copyright works. This was followed by counterfeit complaints and reports at about 43 or 32% and piracy at about 41 or 30%.
Interestingly, counterfeiting and piracy, most or 79 violators were operating online, with Facebook as the top platform where alleged IP violations were channeled.
Fifty-three or 67% were on Facebook; 7 or 9% on the Less Popular Websites Category; seven or 9% on Shopee; six or 8% on Lazada; and three or 4% on YouTube. Meanwhile, Caroussell, Instagram and Vidyard each recorded one or 1% separately.
Counterfeiting, piracy certified urgent
With the alarming incidents on the wanton infringement of intellectual property rights amid the pandemic, IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba certifies addressing the issue as “urgent in order to protect consumers and rights holders accordingly.” It is thus a high priority for the agency to set in place new rules that will provide it with a wider online monitoring authority and be able to prevent IP rights violators from making a sale.
“IEO will soon forward to me the draft on its proposed updates to the 2013 Rules and Regulations on Enforcement. We will finalize and issue the new Rules as soon as practicable,” Barba said.
“The primary objective of the revision is to add more disruptive enforcement functions to the IEO, such as clearly including online counterfeiting and piracy in its coverage, coordinating with the National Telecommunications Commission to take down IP-rights offending posts and monitor marketplaces proactively based on findings of the IPOPHL, and elevate issues found to IP rights owners.”
Moreover, IPOPHL is being heavily consulted in the creation of an agreement between e-commerce platforms and select rights holders for a protocol on the takedown of posts when illicit content or products are sold or posted for sale on their platforms.
“Specifically, through the agreement, a notice and takedown system and procedure will be developed by online platforms to more swiftly address reports on counterfeit goods and pirated materials being sold online. We hope it will be signed soon this year once the remaining issues are resolved,” Barba added.
Solidary liability, needed all the more
For his part, IPOPHL Deputy Director General Teodoro C. Pascua lauded online marketplaces for their close cooperation with IPOPHL, especially during the quarantine.
“I think since the push against counterfeits and piracy has been heightened as a national effort spearheaded by IPOPHL and the interagency National Committee on IP Rights, the efforts of principal e-commerce platforms have also improved and leveled up,” Pascua said.
Nevertheless, the surge in complaints and reports received by the IEO demonstrates the need for government to legislate and institutionalize more policies that can effectively prevent counterfeiters and pirates from entering and exploiting especially the online market.
One measure that is seen to improve the commerce environment, and which the IPOPHL strongly supports, is the solidary liability pushed in the Internet Transactions Bill or House Bill 6122. The IPOPHL is also keen on supporting the version of this bill before the Senate.
The adoption of a solidary liability principle would put platforms and service providers entirely accountable for the infringing acts of their client-sellers.
“A strong support for solidary liability will all the more compel platforms to be more consumer and IP rights-friendly. We can calibrate it in the future but for now, especially with the exodus to e-commerce and the overwhelming data on deceptive practices sprawling in these platforms, a steadfast and strict position on their liability must be maintained,” Pascua added.