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Brand protection at the Philippines border: insights and strategies

Published on 19 Mar 2024 | 7 minute read

Today, Edmund Jason Baranda, managing partner at Baranda and Associates, a member of the Rouse Network, provides advice on how to collaborate effectively with customs officials at border points and ports in the Philippines. Below, we explore the frontline of brand protection in the country, providing a guide on how to most successfully monitor for - and enforce against - counterfeit and grey market goods.


Can rights holders record trademark and brand-related IPinformation with Customs and, if so, how?

Yes, rights holders can record their IP rights, including trademarks and designs, with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to aid officials in enforcing the prohibition on the importation of infringing goods. Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 6/2002 provides administrative guidelines for handling and disposing of infringing goods. It also set up the creation of a dedicated BOC division to handle IP border control protection. At present, the IP rights division (IPRD), under Customs Intelligence and Investigation, is tasked to handle customs recordation matters.

Rights holders may record their IP rights by:

  • submitting the prescribed application form and necessary documentary requirements with the BOC-IPRD; and
  • paying the recordation fee.

The BOC-IPRD will then issue a customs memorandum circular stating the recordation and a description of the registered product(s), which will becirculated to port officers and custom collectors and further cascaded to frontline assessment officers, directing them to monitor imports accordingly.

The recordation and product(s) covered are valid for two years from the date of the recordal and renewable every two years thereafter. Renewal is done by submitting or updating the abovementioned documents before the two-year period expires.

Are copyright registrations also registerable with Customs?

Yes, aside from trademark registrations, rights holders can record copyrights and other IP registrations (eg, patents and designs) with Customs.

Under Section ll(A) of CAO 6/2002, prohibited items include:

  • those which constitute a pirate copy or likeness of any work, whether published or unpublished, on which copyright exists; and
  • those which present themselves as a substantial simulation of any machine, article, product or substance duly patented under the IP Code, without the authorisation or consent of the patentee or its duly authorised agent.

If the intellectual property is not registered locally in the Philippines, the rights holder may submit three certified true copies of a decision or resolution issued by a court or other competent authority declaring or recognising the claim to the IP right.

Can brand owners send customs officials a product information guide or any additional materials to assist them in identifying genuine products?

Yes, product information regarding the IP right must be submitted to the BOC-IPRD. If possible, rights holders should submit a sample item to Customs to aid officials in enforcing border control measures against infringing goods.

Documentary requirements for the recordal are:

  • a letter of intent addressed to the BOC commissioner and chief of the BOC-IPRD;
  • various BOC forms that provide general, product, importer, supplier, broker, distributor and warehouse information;
  • an affidavit of ownership of the IP right;
  • an execution of a certification attesting that the rights holder or its authorised representative has read and understood the IP Code and CAO 6/2002;
  • a sufficient description of the products covered by the IP right sought to be recorded, together with samples thereof; and
  • three certified copies of the certificate of registration issued by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).

If the IP right is not registered with the IPOPHL, three certified true copies of a decision or resolution issued by a court or other competent authority declaring or recognising the claim to the IP right can be submitted.

For copyright and related rights not registered with the IPOPHL, an affidavit executed by the rights holder or its duly authorised representative can be submitted, stating that, at the time specified therein:

  • copyright registration subsists in the work; and
  • the rights holder is the owner of the

The BOC forms should provide:

  • the importer name, address and name of representative;
  • the supplier name and address;
  • the broker name, address and name of representative (if available);
  • the distributor name, address and name of representative (if available);
  • the warehouse name, address, and name of representative (if available); and
  • the price range of the

For foreign rights holders, a notarised and apostilled power of attorney issued in favour of their chosen representative is needed.

What is the typical process for confiscation or further investigation in the event that customs officials identify potentially counterfeit goods?

The process of border control measures is carried out in the following order:

  • IP recordation or filing of request for the issuance of alert of hold order;
  • notification to the rights holder of goods examination;
  • physical examination and request for certification;
  • issuance of warrant of seizure;
  • hearing;
  • issuance of decree or order of forfeiture; and
  • disposition and condemnation of the forfeited infringing

For rights recorded with Customs, rights holders are notified by the BOC-IPRD in case infringing goods are found during inspection. The BOC-IPRD would then request the rights holders or their representatives to issue a certification attesting that, after examination, the goods are infringing goods. The examining officials will then submit their findings to the customs collector.

In case of IP rights not recorded with the BOC-IPRD, rights holders may file a request for issuance of an alert of hold order against any import suspected to contain infringing goods upon submission of the documentary requirements previously mentioned. In such cases, the goods will be examined in the presence of the rights holder or its duly authorised agent, who will be notified of the time and place of the examination, within 24 hours from receipt of notice of the alert of hold order. If the rights holder or its agent cannot participate in the examination, the inspection will still proceed and the examining official will make their findings and recommendation.

In both instances, if there is a prima facie basis to subject the goods to seizure proceedings. The matter will be referred to the collector of customs to issue a warrant of seizure and detention against the shipment.

Upon seizure, the customs collector will, within five working days from the date of seizure, give the claimant, importer or owner of the seized article or their agent a written notice of the seizure. In case of an unknown owner, the notice will be effective for five days after posting in the customs house of the district in which the seizure is made and, under the discretion of the commissioner, publication in a newspaper.

After due notice, the customs collector will setthecase for hearing, which will be decided within 20 working days from its initial setting. Upon finding that the seized goods are infringing items, the customs collector will issue a final decree and order of forfeiture, subjecting the infringing goods to condemnation and destruction.

Rights holders may request for a certificate of finality and a copy of the condemnation report, detailing the destruction of the infringing goods.

How will brand owners typically be contacted when suspicious or counterfeit goods are identified?

Rights holders or their duly authorised representatives are usually contacted by the BOC-IPRD through the contact information provided in the general information form submitted during registration or renewal.

Are there any time-sensitive considerations that brand owners should be aware of when dealing with customs-related IP enforcement?

The timely execution of the requested certification by the rights holder attesting that the seized goods are counterfeit items or infringe its rights is important, as Customs may release the suspected infringing goods if it does not hear from the rights holder.

What are the potential costs involved in working with customs officials to protect a brand's intellectual property, and how can these costs be managed effectively?

The official fee for recordal is based on the number of goods listed in the trademark registration, which is about $45 per item or product listed, with a cap of $450 for a trademark registration with 10 or more items.

Can you provide examples of successful collaborations between international companies and customs authorities that have resulted in tangible results?

Customs has periodically seized imported counterfeit products. Seized items include goods bearing the brands adidas, Birkenstock, Gucci, H&M, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Skechers, Supreme and Tory Burch, as reported by the IPOPHL and Manila Bulletin.

Nike, through its Asia-Pacific brand protection team, recognised Customs for seizing pl.56 billion ($27.7 million) worth of fake Nike shoes in 2023.

However, most seizures are inland (eg, at warehouses) and not at the border or ports. Therefore, it is likely that some of infringing goods have already been sold or distributed in the market before a raid. Rights holders have thus been calling for Customs to conduct more border seizures as it is a more effective way of stopping the flow of counterfeits into the market.

What proactive strategies can brand owners employ to enhance their partnership with customs officials and improve their chances of intercepting counterfeit goods before they enter/exit the market?

In addition to maintaining their recordals, brand owners may consider conducting brand identification and familiarity training sessions for customs officers. These training sessions help customs agents to readily distinguish counterfeits from originals.

The BOC-IPRD mainly relies on intel from brand owners to aid it in conducting seizures of counterfeits and to ensure efficient screening and inspection of incoming shipments. Information such as shipping and import details help officials to identify possible contraband shipments.


This article was first published by World Trademark Review in February 2024.

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Managing Partner at Baranda & Associates, Principal and Country Manager of Philippines business
+63 2 403 1686
Managing Partner at Baranda & Associates, Principal and Country Manager of Philippines business
+63 2 403 1686