With over 2,000 stores, Greenhills Shopping Center (GSC) in San Juan City, Metro Manila has been a favourite shopping hub for various goods, including electronics/gadgets, perfumes, jewelry and apparel, for several decades. In the 2021 Notorious Markets List published by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in February 2022, GSC once again landed a spot among the physical markets found to facilitate substantial trade mark counterfeiting.
The USTR took into account that the Philippines has the National Committee on IP Rights (NCIPR) composed of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Trade 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 had an “enforcement and monitoring agreement with the city of San Juan” and working group to address the sale of counterfeits in GSC. While there had been government efforts, counterfeit or “Class A” products were still found in open display in the many stalls and stores of emboldened sellers in GSC.
GSC is also known to implement a monthly rotation of their bazaar-like stalls (locally known as tiangge) where majority of the counterfeits are sold. This fact, coupled with local seller practice of not issuing receipts or prominently displaying their business name, make it difficult for IP owners and IP practitioners to enforce against such stalls.
Recent raid in GSC
In an effort to address the sale of counterfeits, an IP owner sought the assistance of the NBI, a member-agency of the NCIPR, and conducted a raid of the bazaar-like stalls/tiangge shops in GSC last 4 April 2022. This resulted in the confiscation of counterfeit bags amounting to PHP63 Million (about USD1.21 million) in value. The NCIPR stated that the raid is part of the steps being taken to remove GSC from the Notorious Markets List. According to IPOPHL Deputy Director General (DDG) Teodoro Pascua, “unless drastically changed, Greenhills’ reputation as a go-to for fake goods will damage our country’s reputation, eventually affecting our economic interests in the US and other trading partners that highly value IP protection.”
Improving IP protection at the local government level
DDG Pascua stated that combatting the sale of counterfeit items is not a problem limited to GSC. There are other markets that require concrete steps to be taken. For this purpose, DDG Pascua urged the improvement of IP protection and enforcement in the Philippines in the local government level. The DILG issued Memorandum Circular No. 2020-124 on 21 September 2020 which instructs local governments to issue ordinances to explicitly ban the sale of counterfeit or pirated goods.
Securing effective cooperation from mall administration/landlord
The management of GSC undertook to coordinate with the NCIPR in evaluating further steps to be taken.
There is an ongoing dialogue among IP owners, the IPOPHL and GSC to identify more effective ways in safeguarding and enforcing IP rights. The management of GSC undertook to coordinate with NCIPR in evaluating the next steps and even offered an in-site office for NCIPR members in GSC. If continued cooperation by and education of GSC tenants are maintained, we just might see GSC’s reputation as a counterfeit hotspot slowly change. This illustrates the advantage the Philippines has in the NCIPR. The fact that there is a national enforcement coordination function allows focus on specific IP enforcement problems.