The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) will now be able to exercise enforcement functions against those involved in the sale or trade of counterfeit items as part of the rules for the amended IP Code.

On September 21 2013, IPOPHL published its Rules and Regulations on its enforcement functions and visitorial powers granted by Republic Act 10372, which amends the IP Code. These rules, which enhance the enforcement of IP rights, took effect on October 7 2013.

The IPOPHL has created an IPR Enforcement Office (IEO) headed by a deputy director-general and assisted by designated IPOPHL personnel and detailed or assigned law enforcement officers who can receive verified complaints or reports of IP violations from rights holders, government agencies and the public. The complaints only cover enforcements against manufacturing, production, import, export, distribution, trading and offering for sale, including other preparatory steps necessary to carry out the sale of counterfeit or pirated goods, provided that there is no pending case before any other office or courts involving the same issues or subject matter.

The IEO will have oversight in evaluating complaints received; coordinating with rights holders; formulating policies and programs to ensure appropriate enforcement of intellectual property rights; and providing assistance in enforcement of orders, writs, and processes issued by the Bureau of Legal Affairs and the Office of the Director General.

Essentially, the Deputy Director-General, within 30 days of receipt of a complaint and after evaluating it, and after the rights holders have paid the required fees, can do any or all of the following enforcement actions: (a) issuance of notice or warning to the respondents to observe compliance with the IP Code, (b) issuance of a visitorial order (VO) on the subject premises, (c) issuance of a compliance order against respondents, (d) immediate filing of administrative complaints before the local government concerned, and other government agencies or tribunals, (e) referral of the case to a law enforcement agency for case build-up (f) recommendation of application for a search warrant, (g) dismissal of the complaint, (h) referral to other government agencies for filing of charges for violation of other laws, and (i) other actions necessary to ensure compliance with the IP Code.

Any records relating to the complaints or reports are treated as confidential and will not be divulged until any enforcement action has been issued.

If a VO is issued it will be valid only within ten (10) days from its issuance. The authorised personnel serving the VO must explain the purpose of the visit to the owners, employees and representatives of the business establishments. Upon entering the premises, if the authorised personnel and the product specialist or the rights holder or their representative see in plain view counterfeit or pirated goods and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the establishment is engaged in infringing acts, the said determination shall be communicated to the owner, employee, representative of the establishment, and must be duly stated in the post-operation report - which becomes the basis of any applicable administrative actions covered by these Rules. The deputy director-general may issue a compliance order to the business establishment, which has 60 days to comply with the order before the proper administrative action is initiated.

Latest data from the IPOPHL showed that as of end-September 2013, the value of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by the government amounted to P6.13 billion, up from P4.14 billion in the same period last year.

With these new enforcement powers, IPOPHL has provided the necessary assistance to trademark owners and increased support the fight against counterfeit and pirated goods in the Philippines.