Mall owners to face raps for fake goods
MANILA, Philippines—Mall owners should make sure that none of their tenants sell counterfeit goods as they could face criminal charges or possible cancellation of Schengen and United States visas if they are found to be coddling counterfeiters.
Ricardo Blancaflor, director general of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), told mall owners and administrators to weed out the counterfeiters in their tenants’ list if they did not want to face criminal raps.
“Mall owners will also be criminally liable if they’re found to be aiding and abetting the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods,” he told a press briefing Thursday.
In a bid to be taken off the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) antipiracy watch list, the government has been cracking down on malls and shopping areas deemed to be “notorious” piracy havens by the USTR.
‘Ordinary’ watch list
The country is currently on the “ordinary” watch list, a notch below the “priority” watch list reserved for US trading partners deemed as having inadequate intellectual property rights protection or enforcement.
Being on the USTR watch list also comes with a threat of trade sanctions if the erring government continues to fail to curb IP violations.
Late last year, the IPOPHL started closely coordinating with mall owners to rid the market of counterfeit goods.
The Greenhills Shopping Center (GSC) was the first to heed IPOPHL’s call, leading to the removal of most counterfeit goods being sold there.
However, the GSC refused to cooperate with the government agency when it was asked to submit a list of its tenants, Blancaflor said.
He said IPOPHL needed the list to enable it to file charges against tenants found selling counterfeit goods.
“(GSC) has been very cooperative these past months, but last month, they suddenly refused our request, citing confidentiality and security issues. We warned them that they can be tagged as an accessory if they don’t heed our request. They haven’t responded to us yet,” he said.
GSC general manager Catherine Ko said it was not that the mall operator did not want to cooperate with IPOPHL. Tenant data was really just confidential, not only for GSC, but for other mall operators as well, Ko said.
“They’re asking us for a map of our tiangge grounds and the names of lessees. We said no because that’s our trade secret,” she said.
“It’s what other malls do, too. If any other mall gets hold of that list, they can pirate our lessees,” she said.
Ko said GSC continues to cooperate with the IPOPHL by letting its officials go around the shopping center to spot sellers of counterfeit goods. GSC personnel also conduct regular inspections to ensure that tenants were complying with the no-counterfeit rule, she said.
“I think there are other ways of policing, without us having to give them the tenant list. We have reiterated our commitment to continue cooperating with IPOPHL,” she said.
Blancaflor said IPOPHL would also be meeting with the board of 168 Mall within the month to discuss similar operations. The mall operator has also been warned about being charged as an accessory to counterfeiting and piracy.
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