USTR urged to remove PH from IPR watchlist

By Louella D. Desiderio, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 02 2014 09:29 AM | Updated as of Mar 02 2014 05:29 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) should consider removing the Philippines from its list of countries with intellectual property rights (IPR) violations amid the country’s efforts to put a stop to counterfeiting and piracy, US-based research organization Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said.

“The USTR will publish its annual review of IPR protection problems around the world, called the Special 301 Report, sometime around May.

When it does, USTR should seriously consider graduating the Philippines from its IPR watch list,” CSIS said in a statement.

CSIS, a bipartisan, non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, conducts research and analysis and develops policy initiatives in various disciplines such as defense and security, regional stability and transnational challenges.

In 2006, the Philippines was promoted from the Priority Watch List to the Watch List after the country showed substantial progress in launching crackdowns against the production and selling of pirated optical discs.

Being placed on the Priority Watch List means a country presents the most significant concerns regarding insufficient IPR protection or enforcement, while those on the Watch List are countries which still have to address IPR problems.

The CSIS noted that since country was placed on the Watch List, it has continued to take steps to bolster IPR by passing laws to improve and streamline enforcement.

It cited that in 2010, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) established an Operations Center to spearhead and coordinate policing operations by various law enforcement authorities and has also stepped up raids on notorious markets selling counterfeit products such as Quiapo in Manila.

Other efforts have also been undertaken such as the passage of a measure to establish a Bureau of Copyright within the IPOPHL to strengthen implementation of the copyright laws as well as crafting of a manual for law enforcers and prosecutors handling cases of IPR violation.

The country is likewise implementing programs aimed at increasing education and advocacy efforts to support IPR.

The Philippines was retained in the Watch List of the Special 301 report released by the USTR last year as the US government wants the country to take important steps to address piracy over the Internet and to provide implementing regulations for the amendments made to the IP code.

“It is important that the United States recognize the progress the Philippines has made by graduating the country from the Watch List when it publishes the 2014 Special 301 Report. Doing so would not only reward Manila for what it has already done and encourage additional steps going forward, but it would also provide an incentive to other countries in Southeast Asia trying to implement similar reforms,” the CSIS said.

The organization said protecting IP is becoming increasingly important for Southeast Asian moviemakers, musicians, fashion designers, manufacturers, and others that need to have their IPR upheld as the region develops and becomes integrated into the regional and global economy.