By: Kenneth C. Varona
The Philippines remains excluded from the list of countries enumerated in the watch list of the USTR’s Special 301 Report for the fourth consecutive year since 2014.
IPOPHL Director General Josephine Santiago said that release of the 301 report was a highlight of the National Intellectual Property Rights Month, held in the Philippines every April.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) annually publishes a list of trading partners it considers to have poor mechanisms in protecting and enforcing intellectual property of US innovators.
The Special 301 Report contains a “Priority Watch List” and a “Watch List.” The “Priority Watch list” lists eleven (11) countries: China, Indonesia, Algeria, Thailand, India, Kuwait, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. The “Watch List” enumerates 23 countries, such as, Vietnam, Pakistan, Lebanon, Greece, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, among others.
Instrumental to IP enforcement in the Philippines is the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR), an inter-agency committee composed of various government agencies working towards the promotion, protection, and enforcement of intellectual property rights. NCIPR member agencies include the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Bureau of Customs (BOC), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), the Department of Justice (DOJ), Optical Media Board (OMB) and the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).
These different agencies coordinate with each other to create a stronger IP rights enforcement system in the Philippines. Their efforts have proven effective as an estimated Php6.2 billion worth of counterfeit goods were seized in 2016. Stronger enforcement measures, along with judicial reform initiatives and IPR legislation have contributed to a more favorable IPR situation for rights owners in the country. Consequently, the Philippines remains excluded from the USTR’s watch list.
Director General Josephine Santiago’s statement at the 56th WIPO General Assembly reflects her optimism about IP rights in the country: “The Philippines has sustained its momentum in building an innovation hub in the region. We continue to equalize the playing field as we take the lead in helping create and protect ideas with the ultimate goal of fostering innovation and practical market application.”