Thursday, February 29, 2024

PH gov’t asked to curb surge of counterfeit software in engineering, design firms

Software group BSA has called on the Philippine government to examine the software used by private engineering and design contractors, particularly those engaged in public works and infrastructure projects.

BSA said it made the plea after police authorities in Thailand and Malaysia recently caught contractors working on critical infrastructure projects using unlicensed design software.

In the said neighboring countries, police officials raised the alarm because contractors involved in public works projects related to dams and irrigation and railways were found using illegal design software.

BSA also noted that earlier this year, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) disclosed that counterfeit and piracy reports across a range of products increased dramatically by 286 percent during the first half of the year.

In 2022, the agency recorded 52 reports, and this year, the number has escalated to 200, highlighting a concerning trend in copyright infringement across the country.

In light of these findings, BSA said it is urging governments and businesses in the Philippines and across Southeast Asia to ensure the use of licensed and secure software in critical public works projects.

The ongoing risk of unlicensed software use in major national infrastructure projects not only jeopardizes the integrity of these projects but also highlights a broader regional issue of intellectual property rights enforcement, the group said.

“There is too much at stake in the development of national infrastructure projects for businesses involved in these to take shortcuts like using unlicensed software,” said BSA senior director Tarun Sawney.

“In the Philippines, we believe there is a possibility that thousands of engineering and design firms engaged in important public works projects may be using unlicensed software. This poses a significant risk to public safety, and we strongly urge these companies to cease this practice immediately. It is imperative for the government and the enforcement authorities to enforce the law, while business leaders should prioritize the use of licensed software,” added Sawney.

In Thailand, a recent investigation by the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) of the Royal Thai Police revealed that a local distributor of measurement tools related to dam safety had been using unlicensed software to design blueprints related to specialized measurement instruments used in national infrastructure projects and other crucial applications.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (MDTCA) conducted raids on engineering design firms involved in projects spanning public infrastructure, real estate, and construction.

This included an engineering consultancy firm involved in vital public works projects like national rail construction. The company reports annual revenues of nearly $1.5 million and assets of more than $1.7 million.

In the Philippines, where enforcement action against users of infringing software is rarely reported by police, Sawney said the government should be wary of any contractor that cannot certify its software licensing.

“We believe there are many more examples of engineering firms that are intentionally using unlicensed software. We also believe that some engineering firms are not properly managing software assets, and as a result, their designers are using unlicensed software,” said Sawney. 

“Whatever the reason for this, it’s dangerous and unnecessary. Major engineering firms working on national infrastructure projects receive substantial budgets from national governments, and therefore should invest in licensed, safe, secure design software. The taxpayers deserve to know that public works are designed using proper software that keeps them safe.”

During the investigations in the Asean region, authorities also discovered that some companies used deceptive practices where end-users presented outdated software licenses to falsely imply compliance, only to be exposed during thorough PC checks.

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