Fighting counterfeiting and piracy

September 19, 2022

Last week, we alerted consumers of copycat LEGO products proliferating in the market. In the midst of this problem, we see two bits of good news coming out of it: First is that the National Bureau of Investigation was able to arrest the copycat products from risking the safety of more consumers, and second, that LEGO is exploring the possibility of joining our growing network of members under the e-commerce memorandum of understanding.

The MoU — which IPOPHL helped facilitate along with UK Rouse, through its local partner Baranda & Associates — aims to establish a code of practice and an efficient takedown procedure among online marketplaces to curb counterfeit sales online. So far, the MoU has gathered as members e-commerce platforms Shopee, Lazada, Zalora and about 16 intellectual property rights holders, such as Unilever Philippines Inc., GlaxoSmithKline Philippines Inc., Globe Telecom Inc., Castrol Ltd., Solar Pictures Inc., the Philippine Retailers Association, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

Less than a year into implementing the MoU since March 2021, we were already experiencing the positive effects from this key partnership: E-commerce platforms are more proactive and rights owners more active in utilizing complaints systems. We are now much more in control of IP enforcement within the digital domain.

As we have seen the beneficial outcomes of this e-commerce agreement, we are now aiming to escalate this strategy to our friends in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Involving our ASEAN neighbors is vital in firming up the region’s status as an innovation hub, a place where investors can do business and compete at a level playing field. To deal with a crime that moves across borders at a digitally fast pace and under the cloak is a necessary step in achieving our goals of innovation and prosperity in the region.

Through our chairmanship in the ASEAN Network of IP Enforcement Experts — a sub -committee of the ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation — we are looking to inspire more neighboring countries to likewise adopt a national-level e-commerce agreement.

To date, only the Philippines and Thailand have this MoU. Vietnam and Indonesia’s IP offices are considering the possibility of crafting their versions of the agreement.

Of course, introducing this strategy to neighboring countries is not without its unique challenges. For one, unlike the Philippines, not all national IP offices possess enforcement powers.

Another obstacle is that some countries in the region do not have an operating collaborative body on IP rights enforcement such as our National Committee on IP Rights, which has 15 members from different agencies of government. Such whole-of-government support is key in coordinating efforts and information to build up cases against violators and track down warehouses for counterfeits, among others.

Amid these challenges, some ASEAN members have taken incremental steps to emulate our enforcement strategies.

Thailand has been able to create their version of an inter-agency cooperation on IP rights issues called the National Committee on IP led by the prime minister and the deputy prime minister.

Indonesia has begun to tread the same direction with a collaborative IP enforcement group. This task force is joined by the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Department or Bareskrim, the Food and Drug Monitoring Agency, Communications and Information Ministry and the Customs and Excise Directorate General.

At this rate, we are optimistic that our IP enforcement campaign radiates to more IP offices in the region.

In this coming ASEAN IP Enforcement Week on 26 to 30 September, we hope to progress further in our dialogue with ANIEE member-countries on how they can emulate our e-commerce agreement and significantly bring down their local incidences of counterfeiting and piracy.

We take pride in the trust of our ASEAN friends in placing us at the helm of ANIEE to lead the charge in IP enforcement. But clearly, the shifting environment in IP protection is a region-wide experience that would take the whole of ASEAN to combat.

 


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