IP enforcement in the Philippines has long been a painful affair. First an IP holder had to find evidence of infringement (usually via a P.I.), then ask the NBI or Police to conduct a raid. Then they applied for a search warrant, with the IP Holder's attorneys. The court often took all day so a raid could not start until the next day. The NBI or Police then conducted the raid to seize the fake goods. Then the IP holders attorneys had to return to court to file the results of the search warrant execution. IP holders had to pay their own storage costs and the case would take many years to conclude after it was passed to the DoJ for investigation then to the court for criminal prosecution. Tip offs, unreliability and disappearing defendants were common. Because it was so time consuming and costly, IP holders could only manage a few raids a year at best, leading to limited deterrence.
So the IP Office decided to get in on the act and set up their own enforcement team to help improve the system. This began with the Amended IP Code ( Republic Act No. 10372), which established the IPR Enforcement Office at the IPO. It can take complaints on IPR violation and then can act by conducting inspections and raids on infringers. Further the IPO has also said it will ask the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze the bank accounts of suspects. A very interesting angle is that the IPO Enforcement Office has a variety of enforcement options to choose from - warning letters, raids, filing of administrative cases etc. They have in fact been varying the actions they take too.
Although the focus tends to be the rather blunt measure of number of goods seized, the real test will be in having more regular raids carried out under a more efficient and less time consuming system that the current one, which actively discourages IP holder involvement through its complexity. Of course raids are only the first step, infringers still need to be prosecuted for the system to have the full deterrent effect. But let's hope the IPO enforcement system is will at least make the raid stage easier and more effective. A variety of cases have now been undertaken and we will start to see the results in the coming months.