Thursday, February 29, 2024

IPOPHL drafting plan for removal of Greenhills from US Notorious Markets List

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said it has proposed a work plan to tackle long-standing counterfeit activities in the Greenhills Shopping Center — once again the lone Philippine market cited in the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2022 Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

Photo from the Facebook page of Greenhills Shopping Center

The annual Notorious Markets List highlights online and physical markets that reportedly engage in or facilitate substantial trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy.

The 2022 List, released on Jan. 31, 2023, flagged 39 online markets and 33 physical markets worldwide, including the Greenhills Shopping Center on San Juan City.

A famous shopping hub with over 2,000 indoor and outdoor stores, Greenhills reportedly houses storefronts selling counterfeit goods, including electronics, perfumes, watches, shoes, accessories and fashion items.

“While the shopping center’s continued inclusion in the list puts the Philippines’ reputation in effectively protecting intellectual property (IP) rights on the line, we are pleased to see that several positive developments in this case have been cited by the USTR,” IPOPHL director general Rowel S. Barba said.

Among them is the high-profile raid in April 2022 when the National Bureau of Investigation seized $1.4 million worth of counterfeit luxury goods and when IPOPHL and the National Committee on IP Rights (NCIPR) led a meeting with Greenhills’ management team.

The USTR echoed IPOPHL’s previous report on Greenhills’ willingness to collaborate with authorities, adding that the shopping center’s managers believe that the opening of its new seven-story building in 2023 “will provide leverage to transition sellers of counterfeit goods into ‘legitimate’ sellers.”

However, while rights holders reported taking enforcement actions through warning letters and suspension of violating business, the report noted that “the targets of enforcement often evade such efforts by moving the location of their stalls.”

Barba is also pleased that the USTR took stock of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) IPOPHL signed last year with the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), of which Greenhills is a member.

“With the MOU, through which the PRA committed to a ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to counterfeit products, we are secured of greater support in promoting IP respect and better business practices in the shopping center,” Barba added.

As acting chair of the 15-member NCIPR, IPOPHL has proposed a work plan to address the counterfeit activities in Greenhills.

The draft plan is currently under review by the NCIPR members who are expected to indicate what they can contribute to each proposed strategy. The committee is slated to meet late February.

Major strategies under the proposed work plan include strengthening the NCIPR’s collaboration with Greenhills with hopes of compelling the shopping center to implement stricter monitoring of their stalls and impose heftier penalties against sellers of counterfeit products.

Under the work plan, the NCIPR will also coordinate with brand owners to actively submit Affidavits of Complaints to Greenhills – to indicate their expression of filing a legal complaint and as notice to the mall’s management of potential violators.

IPOPHL said it will also help vendors appreciate the long-term value of respecting others’ IP rights and creating their own IP-protected products.

IPOPHL also said it is hoping to compel local government units (LGUs) to fully enforce the IP Code of 1997 and the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) IP-related issuances, namely Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-124 and MC 2022-055.

MC 2020-124 mandates local offices to issue an ordinance that will, among others, cancel business permits of IP-violating shops while MC 2022-055 encourages LGUs to adopt their respective Anti-Counterfeit and Anti-Piracy Policies to promote IP respect in the workplace.

“Truly, clearing Greenhills of IP infringement activities will not be an easy feat. Its long-standing reputation as a market for Class As and Bs and pirated DVDs has cut across generations,” Barba said.

“The problem demands the close and consistent collaboration among NCIPR members, local governments, brand owners and Greenhills – both its managers and vendors. Equally important is the role of consumers whom we continuously enlighten about the possible harms of counterfeiting to their health, lives and households, as well as to the environment and the economy in the bigger picture and longer term.”

The IPOPHL chief added that the agency will also be drafting separate work plans for Baclaran markets, Divisoria markets and the Cartimar Shopping Center, which had been cited in the European Commission’s latest Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List.

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