LAW enforcement agencies are asking legislators to amend the Intellectual Property (IP) Code of the Philippines to make owners of malls and department stores liable if their properties are found hosting counterfeit sellers.
In a news briefing on Wednesday, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said he is seeking the inclusion in the IP Code of a provision holding malls and department stores accountable for the proliferation of fake items. He argued that owners should be responsible for checking the authenticity of products their tenants are selling, as turning a blind eye to this invites and promotes counterfeiting.
In fulfillment of this intention, Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) Director General Josephine R. Santiago submitted to Congress a draft of the revised IP Code including this provision, among others, which law enforcement agencies deem as necessary changes to the law.
In the revised IP Code, the liability extends to trademarks and not just copyrights. This means that even knockoff items, such as footwear and bags, which are frequently sold in malls and department stores, will be covered by the law.
“The landlord-lessee liability will extend to trademarks. At present, what we have refers only to copyright. This will be extended to trademarks, meaning those that you see in terms of articles of footwear, bags and all that you see in malls, that will already be hit by the bill,” Santiago said.
Knockoff handbags, wallets and footwear comprise a significant amount of counterfeits captured by the interagency National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR), headed by Lopez with Santiago as second in command.
In the P1.83-billion verified haul of the NCIPR between January and July, P449.88 million are knockoff handbags and wallets, and P130.12 million are fake footwear. The NCIPR has yet to take into account the Customs’ P3.9-billion capture of mostly wearables in a Divisoria mall.
The new IP Code also endorses the shutdown of online retail sites that put on sale fake products, such as pharmaceutical and personal-care goods. Santiago said her office will ask Congress to include in the measure the penalty of disrupting the operations of violating online retail outlets, as well as their payment arms.
“By disruption, this will cover the takedown and the shutdown [of the retailer’s platform]. It will also cover the payment gateways that are being discussed internationally,” she explained.
“That means that even those that are providing the MasterCard and the Visa gateways, we will also be requesting to institute certain measures to stop the payment gateway. We think that, that is a stronger approach to addressing these issues on online,” the IPOPHL chief added.
The NCIPR on Wednesday had a high-level meeting in Makati City to discuss ways to improve the country’s IP rights protection regime. One issue tackled is how to guard IP assets in the rise of innovative platforms online, which points to the alleged sale of fake products in virtual retail sites.