Coinciding with the visit of US President Barack Obama, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced the removal of the Philippines from the Special 301 Watch List.
The watch list identifies countries that deny adequate and effective protection for intellectual property rights (IPR) or deny fair and equitable market access for persons that rely on intellectual property protection.
Common types of intellectual property rights (IPR) include copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights, and in some jurisdictions, trade secrets.
Common examples of IPR violations are the sale of pirated CDs, software and fake name-brand wearing apparel, shoes, bags and other accessories. In Indonesia, for example, a top military brass even flaunts his collection of fake watches.
The Philippines’ removal from the list is certainly welcome news, considering that the Philippines first appeared on the watch list in 1989 and had been on it continuously since 1994. The delisting also comes on the heels of the celebration of World Intellectual Property Day on April 26.
The USTR noted “significant legislative and regulatory reforms to enhance the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in the Philippines” as well as “laudable civil and administrative enforcement gains.”
USTR has created a "Priority Watch List" (for more serious violations) and "Watch List" (for serious violations) under the Special 301 provisions.
Continuous inclusion in either list could have a negative impact on foreign investment decisions in the countries in question. It can also result in the elimination of tariff preferences or the imposition of trade sanctions.
In 2001, for example, the US imposed on Ukraine prohibitive tariff on metals, footwear and other imports because of Ukraine’s failure to enact legislation to enforce copyright in relation to music CDs.
According to Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) Director-General Ricardo R. Blancaflor, the country’s removal “reflects a vibrant rule of law where foreign trading partners can feel secure in doing business in the country.” He attributes the removal to a “holistic approach” in curbing piracy and fighting counterfeits.
Blancaflor acknowledges, however, that more still needs to be done especially in raising the public awareness level (currently at 54%) on the need to protect intellectual property rights. With the cooperation of all stakeholders, especially the LGUs, Blancaflor is targeting a 100 per cent public awareness level by next year.