ALTHOUGH furniture companies have to contend with design piracy, they acknowledged that the issue has gotten better over the years.

To overcome the copying of designs, the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation encourages its members to keep on innovating and be one step ahead of the competition.

“We can’t eliminate it. We can’t safeguard everything,” said vice president for external affairs Cristina Lo.

CFIF consultant Ruby Salutan admitted that piracy used to be an emotional issue when they held their annual trade show in Cebu, but assured that over the years, people have begun to be more educated about the importance of originality.

In recent years, she said they have been advocating for intellectual property rights in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry.

Lo added that with the boom of the tourism and construction industry, many architects and designers are not aware of the problems furniture makers face and end up looking up designs and asking other manufacturers to produce pieces for the rooms they are decorating.

The ease of transferring and sharing photos, she said, makes piracy easier.

However, they hope to continue advocating against design piracy and discouraging other manufacturers to respect intellectual property rights.

Within the organization, though, Lo said there is respect among peers and that each company does not want to be in conflict with others in the business.

She noted that designers like Kenneth Cobonpue have taken an active stance against piracy by going after manufacturers that are selling copied pieces.

Calling themselves “survivors”, Lo said only a handful remain in the furniture export industry as others have decided to go into other businesses when the industry took a fall during the global economic crisis.

Another thing they are preparing for is economic integration next year.

“The competition is fiercer, but there is a broad opportunity,” Salutan noted.

For Christina Gaston, chairperson of this year’s Philippines International Furniture Show, companies need to come up with a branding strategy to compete against industry players in Southeast Asia.

Until that happens, they hope to create buzz with this year’s PIFS at the SMX Convention Center in March and showcase Filipino design to the international and domestic community.