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IPOPHL expands jurisdiction to electronic, digital channels

Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - March 5, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines’ (IPOPHL) is now better equipped to curb online counterfeiting and piracy as the powers of its enforcement office have been expanded to include electronic, digital and online channels.

Under IPOPHL’s Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-049, or the Revised Rules of Procedure on Administrative Enforcement IP Rights which took effect last March 3, the electronic, digital or online channels have been included as part of the scope of the IP Rights Enforcement Office (IEO).

“The exercise of IPOPHL’s enforcement powers shall cover manufacturing, production, importation, exportation, distribution, trading, displaying, broadcasting, streaming and offering for sale, including other preparatory steps necessary to carry out the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods or contents to the public, including electronic, digital or online means provided that there is no pending case before any office, tribunal, quasi-judicial body, or court involving the same issue/s or subject matter,” the MC read.

The new rules also expanded the actions that can be taken by IEO to respond to an administrative complaint from a right holder on counterfeiting and piracy.

IPOPHL said an enforcement order can carry out the following: request removal of counterfeit or pirated goods or content including advertisements or the blocking of access; cease-and-desist order; order removal of counterfeit or pirated goods or content from physical establishments; as well as endorse the cancellation of business permits and licenses.

To ensure corrective actions are made immediately, the expanded rules reduced the period for offenders to comply with IEO decisions to 72 hours from 60 days previously.

The IEO is also given the authority to conduct motu proprio monitoring in both online and physical marketplaces.

“Motu proprio monitoring allows the IEO to take on a more proactive approach and help brand owners screen markets of IP violating listings, with  prospects of reporting possible infringements to concerned IP right holders for their validation and appropriate action,” IPOPHL director general Rowel Barba said.

The new rules were issued in response to growing concerns on counterfeiting and piracy online.

Earlier this week, e-commerce platforms Lazada and Shopee signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with various brand owners and industry groups to work together to fight online counterfeiting and piracy.

Under the MoU, the e-commerce players are adopting a mechanism to take down counterfeit products and pirated works sold or distributed within their platforms.

“The new rules of the IEO and the MoU share common goals in weeding out IP rights infringers and safeguarding the public, whether they be brand owners or consumers. We believe with these new powers, IEO can better intercept counterfeiting and piracy, especially in the online space, and reduce the economic loss and reputational damage IP right holders, and consequently the Philippine government, suffer from infringements,” Ann Edillon, officer-in-charge director at the IEO said.

Despite these recent developments, IPOPHL deputy director general Teodoro Pascua said legislative amendments would still be needed.

“With the IP Code amendments we are requesting in Congress, we will have greater say in shutting IP infringing sites. Once a take-down order is served, the National Telecommunications Commission will automatically and immediately enforce it, without further evaluation as their systems can trust the expertise and competence of IPOPHL,” he said.

Last year, piracy reports and complaints received by the IPOPHL reached a record-high of 121, as the lockdowns imposed due to the pandemic forced individuals to shift to online transactions.

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