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ICC BASCAP calls for stronger intellectual property rights enforcement in ASEAN

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) group called today on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its 10 member states to do more to promote the value of intellectual property (IP) as a key driver for the region’s growth and economic development, and to step up intellectual property right (IPR) enforcement actions to stop counterfeiting and piracy and other IPR infringements that are hurting the region’s economies.

BASCAP’s remarks were delivered at the 4th Philippine Anti-Counterfeiting and Piracy Summit in Manila, organized by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).

The event featured a keynote address by Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III on the value of IP for the Philippine economy, presented by Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo.

Mr Domingo said: “By increasing our synergies and forging a shared resolve towards improving the systems to protect intellectual property, we have laid the groundwork not only for a more effective, dynamic and more development-oriented IP regime, but consequently are fostering the conditions that will lead to our collective success. It is by protecting sectors from piracy, counterfeiting and abuse that we ensure stability and thus the expansion of the industry. This in turn guarantees the growth of market, which redounds to more doors of opportunity held open for the many.”

The Summit, under the theme “Strengthening Intellectual Property Enforcement and Adjudication in the 21st Century”, stressed the importance of putting in place an effective IP enforcement regime and a just and efficient adjudication system. The high-level meeting attracted IP experts, judges, prosecutors, government officials and industry from across the ASEAN region to discuss the importance of strengthening IP enforcement.

Speaking at the event, BASCAP representative Jean-Pierre Maeder, Nestle’s special delegate for IP Advocacy, called on the ASEAN governments to take stronger measures to deter and prevent the trade in fakes.

“BASCAP is looking to ASEAN’s leaders to actively communicate the value of IP to economic growth and employment,” he said. “We call on ASEAN member countries to step up enforcement actions and protect against counterfeiting and piracy. This must become a public policy priority if ASEAN countries are to reach their true growth potential,” said Mr Maeder.

With a combined population of more than 600 million people, strong economic growth and a growing middle class, ASEAN is an increasingly important region for business. Counterfeit and pirated goods have proliferated in the region, and global experience has shown that this can have a significant impact on investments in innovation, deprive governments of taxes and put consumer health and safety at risk.

Highlighting the need for increased international cooperation, Mr Maeder commended the Philippine initiative: “Today’s event is an important opportunity for government officials and IP experts to put forward practical steps to resolve the problem of counterfeiting and piracy. Philippine leaders have recognized the importance of fostering creativity and innovation as a key to future economic growth, and we hope that their progress will inspire other ASEAN members to step up efforts to stop this global epidemic.”

This year’s Summit marked the Philippines removal from the US Trade Representative’s special 301 watch list, which identifies US trading partners that do not adequately and effectively protect IPRs. The Philippines had been on the list since 1994. In discussing the state of IPR Protection and Enforcement in the Philippines, IPOPHL Director General Ricardo Blancaflor highlighted the many steps that the Philippine government had taken in recent years to improve the IP environment.

“We aim to make the IP system work better and faster for our IP right holders,” Mr Blancaflor said. “The continuing push to improve IP enforcement and adjudication in the country is aligned with our bigger objective of having a demystified, democratized, and a development-oriented IP system.”

BASCAP welcomed progress made by several ASEAN members, while noting that more still needs to be done to address the growing problem of counterfeit and piracy.

Mr Maeder presented a list of key measures that all ASEAN governments should undertake to achieve a strong and effective IP enforcement regime as:

•The provision of penalties that includes imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement. Enforcement should also extend to infringements carried out in the digital environment, with governments adopting procedures clarifying that companies will face liability for operating services based on promoting access to infringing materials.

•The empowerment of judicial authorities to issue injunctions against infringers of IPR and, in civil judicial proceedings, order the infringer to pay the right holder damages adequate to compensate for the injury suffered as a result of the infringement.

•The promotion of specialized skills training and expertise in IPR cases by law enforcement officials and courts through the creation of specialized IP units within enforcement agencies. Recognizing the global nature of IP crimes, national Customs authorities should be empowered to act upon their own initiative (ex-officio) to suspend the release of suspected counterfeit goods with respect to imported, exported, or in-transit goods.

Key findings from BASCAP’s report on free trade zones’ abuse, the use of proceeds of crime legislation as a means to deter IP crime, and importance of raising public awareness of the harms of counterfeits were also highlighted in his remarks.

The 4th Philippine Anti-Counterfeiting and Piracy Summit is the largest IP event held in the Philippines and is held as part of the Philippines celebration of IP month October. The event included speakers from Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan and the US. Several BASCAP member companies were also present, including Nestle, Unilever and Philip Morris International.