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Monday, December 5, 2011

Philippines - reforming IP enforcement

Curious events in Manila. The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOP) under its (relatively new) Director General Ricardo Blancaflor has been making some unusual efforts to support IP holders enforcement. This is a contentious area, due to the weakness of the Philippines system (the US Special 301 review is monotonously consistent in its sadly, pretty accurate criticism). IPOP normally receives all the criticism for weak IP enforcement despite the fact that it is rarely their fault.

They don’t have oversight over the Department of Justice (DoJ), which can take a couple of years to initiate a prosecution. Or the criminal courts where trials take 5 years or so to finish. And IPOP doesn’t control the civil courts where appeals can run for a decade. In fact IPOP set up its BLA litigation system to provide quick alternatives to the civil courts, which is relatively effective.
So despite the rest of the government being inefficient  IPOP deserves credit for trying to find solutions. They are now focusing on the criminal system.

First IPOP wanted to arrange enforcement for IP holders who are frustrated at the difficulties of working with the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) or National Police (PNP) and the courts issuing search warrants. IP Komodo thought this was ambitious, but perhaps government to government things would go faster he hoped. But it proved harder to get around the myriad of Philippines legal rules and no raids took place.

The newspapers this week report that the latest attempt is that IPOP wants to file for injunctions against infringers on behalf of IP holders.  But the DoJ last Thursday issued an opinion that IPOP cannot files on behalf of brand owners whose goods are being illegally sold. DoJ said that IPOP does not have ‘an actual and substantial interest in the subject matter, as distinguished from one who has only nominal interest’.

It is both surprising and impressive that IPOP are genuinely fighting the uphill battle against Philippines bureaucracy and they should be supported.

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