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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Make buyers of fakes liable too

WHEN you buy a knockoff, you not only harm the brands painstakingly built by designers and erode the earnings of those who make their goods, you also expose yourself to safety risks. Last week, Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue and intellectual property rights expert Doris Long spoke about what can be done to stop counterfeiters.

Strong law enforcement and holding buyers liable for buying fake goods might pin down counterfeiting in the country.

In an interview Friday, Doris Long, who is a consultant on international intellectual property rights (IPR) for diverse US and foreign government agencies, stressed the importance of battling counterfeiters who have ruined brand reputations, caused revenue losses, and placed consumers’ safety and health at risk.

She said that while law enforcement agencies around the world are going after counterfeiters, what makes it difficult to stop this global menace is when it is loosely dealt with in the local level. She granted an interview after a meeting in Cebu City with designer and furniture manufacturer Kenneth Cobonpue.

Long cited the case of Cobonpue, whose works are being counterfeited in his own country. The internationally acclaimed designer currently has three counterfeit cases filed against a local manufacturer in Cebu, which are pending at court.

End-user’s accountability

“I have cases filed in Manila and in Cebu. The one is Manila has already been settled, the ones in Cebu are still unresolved for more than five years now,” said Cobonpue, who has sued a Cebuano manufacturer for allegedly copying at least three of his furniture designs.

Cobonpue said while the country has laws on going after the counterfeiters, filing a case against them is too expensive as the burden of proof falls on the complainant.

“Unless we amend the law and make the end-user or buyer liable, it would be difficult to put a stop to this issue,” he said. “It is difficult to run after the manufacturers; the only way is to punish those who buy fake goods. That’s what is happening now in Europe.”

Long reinforced Cobonpue’s statement, saying law enforcement is the key to stop counterfeiting or at least send a strong message against it.

“We need the police and prosecutors to pin them down because the only thing that can allow the creative industry to flourish is if you take the counterfeits off the market,” she said.

Long noted that raising consumer awareness on the impact of counterfeiting on the economic plight of the creative industry would also be of big help to address the issue. Long was in Cebu to give lectures on eCommerce and IPR, among others, to the University of Cebu and University of San Carlos law schools.

Hampers innovation

A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed that the business of “fakes” and counterfeit goods has ballooned into a global industry worth as much as $461 billion.

Counterfeit trade amounted to as much as 2.5 percent of world trade in 2013, up from an estimated 1.9 percent in 2008.

The OECD report warns that there is “a significant economic threat that undermines innovation and hampers economic growth” when buying counterfeit goods.

Ultimately, it harms the firms that created the original products by diluting their brand and ripping off their intellectual property, patents and trademarks.

“These creative people, they are the ones who can build the business that can employ a lot of people, but they can’t do that if people keep on stealing their goods,” said Long, adding that consumers must also know the risks involved when buying fake goods in terms of quality, safety and health issues.

“Consumers should know that the end of every creative work, there is an artist who needs to get paid so they can keep creating,” said Long. “These counterfeiters doesn’t care how long it (items) will last.”

According to Cobonpue, items mostly copied by counterfeiters are furniture, jewelry, fashion accessories, and other export items that are supposed to exude Filipino ingenuity and uniqueness.

“Filipinos should know that if they continue to buy counterfeit goods that they are destroying the Filipino creative industry,” he said. “They should know that behind every product, there is so much thinking involved and if they just copy them, they are destroying the creation of their fellow Filipino designers.”
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