Lawmakers have called for a congressional inquiry into reports that the Philippines is still in the United States’ “watch list” for counterfeit goods.
Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez and his brother Abante Mindanao party-list representative Maximo Rodriguez Jr. filed House Resolution 2570 urging the House Committee on Trade and Industry to investigate the report.
Rodriguez expressed alarm over the 2012 Special 301 report of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which released an annual review of the state of intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement in its trading partners around the world, placing the Philippines on the watch list.
The agency named the “Quiapo shopping district” in Manila as one of 15 “notorious markets worldwide for piracy and counterfeiting.”
Twenty-five other countries are on the list this year: Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
The 13 countries included in the USTR’s “priority watch list” are Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela. Paraguay was made subject to Section 306 Monitoring.
The report ranks countries in three categories which are “Priority Watch List,” “Watch List” and “Section 306 Monitoring.”
“Legislative measures are needed to ensure that the Philippines is removed from the watch list to become compliant with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties and become one of the countries leading the fight against intellectual property violations,” Rodriguez said.
Likewise, the report identifies a wide range of concerns, including troubling “indigenous innovation” policies that may unfairly disadvantage US rights holders in China, the continuing challenges of copyright piracy over the Internet in countries such as Canada, Italy, and Russia, and other ongoing systemic IPR enforcement issues presented in many trading partners around the world.
However, Rodriguez said, despite being on the “watch list,” the US is encouraged by the significant decline in the incidence of unauthorized camcording of motion pictures in theaters that followed the enactment of the Anti-Camcording Act of 2010.
“According to the USTR, Philippine officials also improved in its enforcement efforts, leading to the closure of at least two significant notorious markets but needs to improve on areas, particularly in the criminal enforcement of IPR, which must be strengthened by improving the quality of criminal investigations and prosecutions,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the same report mentioned that the Supreme Court of the Philippines have promulgated the long-awaited IPR procedural rules in 2011, which will hopefully help streamline the judicial process for IPR cases.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez said, the report also cited areas where the Philippines needs to improve on particularly in the criminal enforcement of IPR, which should be strengthened by improving the quality of criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Rodriguez said the USTR also urged the Philippines to clarify its procedures for obtaining provisional measure and enact long pending legislation to amend its copyright law and ensure that it fully implements the WIPO Internet Treaties.
Among the areas of concern include amendments to the Patent Law that limit the patentability of certain chemical forms unless the applicant demonstrates increased efficacy, the lack of an effective system for protecting against the unfair commercial use, as well as unauthorized disclosure, of test or other date generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical products; and the policies that inhibit US exports of IPR-intensive products to the Philippines, including measures that limit the market for imported pharmaceutical products.