The recently published Inquirer editorial entitled “Counterfeit capital” (1/21/23) revealed alarming news regarding our country’s international standing when it comes to combating counterfeit products. The article cited two studies conducted jointly by the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which pointed to the Philippines as among the top sources of certain categories of fake goods.
The proliferation of fake goods in the country is nothing new. In fact, some of our shopping malls have become associated with counterfeit goods. However, the government has also been aggressively targeting these sellers through raids and buy-bust operations. Perhaps the bigger challenge lies with fake products that are sold online. It appears that sellers have taken advantage of the increased popularity of online sales to spread their fake goods to even larger markets. The problem is that online venues such as e-commerce platforms and social media pages are difficult to monitor. Jemina Ty, the founder of a popular swimwear company, whose products have been heavily targeted by counterfeiters, shares that aside from having to comply with rigorous requirements of e-commerce platforms to take down online listings, she also has to personally reach out to multiple websites that post the same fake product. She emphasizes that going after each and every seller can, at times, feel hopeless.
The importance of curbing the spread of counterfeits cannot be discounted. Aside from hurting local businesses and the country’s reputation, the proliferation of fake goods poses dangers to Filipino consumers. This is especially true with food products. A source from a food company shares that the rise in counterfeit products presents the added issue of food safety since counterfeit food products are not tested for quality. He shares that although fake products are unsafe for consumption, counterfeiters would make use of used product labels to make their products look genuine.
Notably, there have been efforts to obtain greater accountability for the violation of Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the online sphere. Last year, the Department of Trade and Industry, along with other government agencies, issued Joint Administrative Order No. 22-01, which made e-commerce platforms liable in the same manner as individual sellers for the sale of fake products. Pending bills in Congress such as House Bill No. 2672 and Senate Bill No. 1591 also seek to impose liability on e-commerce platforms for permitting the sale of counterfeit goods. Recently, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) helped facilitate the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding between e-commerce platforms and several brand owners and business associations to make the process of reporting fake goods more efficient. However, despite these developments, counterfeit goods continue to spread.
We must remember that as stakeholders, we can also do our share to deter the foul practice of counterfeiting. For brand owners, this could mean ensuring that creations, such as designs and trademarks, are duly registered with the IPOPHL. The exercise of registering one’s IP assets can help government agencies, such as the Bureau of Customs, identify counterfeit products more effectively. Brand owners can also encourage customers to avoid patronizing fake goods, and to report them to the authorities. Increased reporting helps both the government and e-commerce platforms flag offenders, making it more difficult for counterfeiters, especially repeat offenders, to keep on selling their products online.
At a time when purchases are made by a few clicks and taps, selling fake goods has never been easier. As such, our participation in anti-counterfeiting measures has also never been more vital.
Mario C. Cerilles Jr. is cofounder of Cerilles and Fernan Intellectual Property Law (CFIP Law). He also teaches intellectual property law at the UP College of Law. The views expressed in this article belong to the author.
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