Govt blames malls, brand owners for IPR piracy

Published by rudy Date posted on May 6, 2011

THE lack of cooperation from brand owners as well as mall operators where counterfeiting is prevalent deters the government’s anti-piracy efforts, according to the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).

In a press conference on Thursday, Ricardo Blancaflor, IPOPHL director general, said some brand owners do not file charges against the violators of their intellectual property rights (IPR) and instead pursue a settlement.

Blancaflor said it is difficult to convict violators because they are not being brought to the courts in the first place. “If there are no cases to pursue, there are no convictions,” he said.

In its 2011 Special 301 Report on IPR, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said that “[w]hile additional efforts have been made to improve coordination among enforcement officials and to strengthen enforcement powers [in the Philippines], the judicial system remains inefficient, with very few criminal IPR cases resulting in convictions over the last decade. In addition, the judiciary’s decisions with respect to provisional measures, in particular on whether to maintain or revoke search and seizure orders, have not been predictable.”

The USTR has deemed the Philippines’ anti-piracy efforts lacking, hence the country’s retention in the Special 301 Watch List for the sixth year in a row.

But Blancaflor said it’s a welcome development that the Philippines will no longer undergo a Special 301 out-of-cycle review (OCR) this year, signifying improvements in the country’s IPR protection campaign.

The Philippines underwent an OCR yearly from 2008 until last year.

Still, the government’s anti-piracy efforts should be boosted by cooperation from the private sector, including shopping malls tagged as notorious piracy hot spots by the USTR, Blancaflor said.

Already, some luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Sanuk, FitFlop, Nike, Breitling, Gucci, Lacoste, Levi’s, Oakley, Puma, Chloe, Dunhill, Lancel, Bvlgari, A. Lange & Söhne, Cartier, Montblanc, Panerai, Baume & Mercier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Chanel, Ray-Ban and Havaianas, have sought IPOPHL’s assistance in enforcing their IPR at the Greenhills Shopping Center.

The agency is also set to meet with the management of 168 Mall next week, Blancaflor said. Other malls tagged as piracy hot spots in the country are Makati Cinema Square and St. Francis Square, the official said.

IPOPHL’s efforts hit a roadblock last month when Greenhills Shopping Center denied the agency’s request for a list of the names of its stall owners, citing confidentiality and security of their tenants.

Blancaflor said brand owners can sue the mall for abetting or aiding the sale of fake goods.

“IP is still a private right. Brand owners should file a complaint,” he said.–BEN ARNOLD O. DE VERA, Manila Times

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