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A look at why the Mall of the Philippines has become a notorious market for trademark counterfeiting
With over 2,000 stores, Greenhills Shopping Center (GSC) in San Juan, Metro Manila has been a preferred shopping mall for several decades for various goods including electronics/gadgets, perfumes, jewelry and clothes. In the Notorious Marketplaces of 2021 list released by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in February 2022, GSC once again landed a spot among the physical marketplaces known to facilitate substantial trademark infringement.
The USTR took into account that the Philippines has a National Intellectual Property Rights Committee (NCIPR) consisting of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Commerce and Industry, Department of Justice, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Bureau of Customs, Food and Drug Administration, Philippine National Police, Optical Media Board, National Book Development Board, Office of the Special Envoy on Transnational Crime, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the National Telecommunications Commission. They noted that the NCIPR has an “enforcement and monitoring agreement with the city of San Juan” and a task force to combat the sale of counterfeits in GSC. Although there were government efforts, counterfeit or “Class A” products were still on display at GSC’s many emboldened vendor stalls and shops.
GSC is also known to implement a monthly rotation of their bazaar-style stalls (known locally as tiangge) where the majority of counterfeits are sold. This fact, coupled with the practice of local vendors not issuing receipts or prominently displaying their business name, makes it difficult for IP owners and IP practitioners to enforce such stalls.
Recent raid in GSC
In an effort to curb the sale of counterfeits, an intellectual property owner enlisted the help of the NBI, an NCIPR member agency, and raided bazaar-type stalls/tiangge GSC stores on April 4, 2022. This resulted in the confiscation of counterfeit bags worth PHP 63 million (about $1.21 million). The NCIPR said the raid is part of moves to remove GSC from the list of notorious markets. According to the Deputy Director General (DDG) of IPOPHL, Teodoro Pascua, “Unless this is radically changed, Greenhills’ reputation as a benchmark for counterfeit products will damage our country’s reputation, ultimately affecting our economic interests. in the United States and other trading partners who place a high value on intellectual property protection.”
Improving intellectual property protection at the local government level
DGA Pascua said tackling the sale of counterfeit items is not a problem limited to GSC. There are other markets that require concrete action. To this end, DDG Pascua urged the improvement of intellectual property protection and enforcement in the Philippines at the local government level. The DILG issued Circular No. 2020-124 on September 21, 2020 which directs local governments to issue ordinances explicitly prohibiting the sale of counterfeit or pirated products.
Ensuring effective cooperation of mall administration/owner
GSC management is committed to coordinating with the NCIPR to assess what action to take.
A dialogue is ongoing between intellectual property owners, IPOPHL and the SGC to identify more effective ways to protect and enforce intellectual property rights. GSC leadership has committed to coordinate with the NCIPR to assess next steps and has even provided an on-site office for NCIPR members within the GSC. If continued cooperation and education of GSC tenants is maintained, we may see GSC’s reputation as a counterfeit hotspot slowly change. This illustrates the advantage of the Philippines in the NCIPR. The fact that there is a national enforcement coordination function makes it possible to focus on specific IPR enforcement issues.
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