FOR the sixth straight year, the Philippines was not included in the US government’s watch list of countries with weak protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), although some areas of concern were flagged.

The United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2019 Special 301 Report released Friday showed the Philippines continued to be out of the list, after being included from 1994 through 2013.

The report is the result of an annual review of of US trading partners’ IP protection and enforcement.

In a statement, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said the positive report proves the country’s efforts to improve its intellectual property system is “headed in the right direction.”

“While this is very welcome news, much work still needs to be done on strengthening the IP system as a whole, not just in enforcement. We won’t be resting on our laurels, it is a continuing challenge to develop a culture of respect for intellectual property,” IPOPHL Director General Josephine R. Santiago was quoted as saying.

The USTR report cited the Philippines, Canada and Japan as those that have adopted laws to prevent unauthorized camcording, and urged other countries to follow suit. It also cited the Philippines’ creation of an intellectual property academy, as one of the best IP practices by US trading partners.

However, the USTR report said the Philippines is among several countries that “do not have in place effective policies and procedures to ensure their own government agencies do not use unlicensed software.”

“It is important for governments to legitimize their own activities in order to set an example of respecting IP for private enterprises. Additionally, unlicensed software exposes governments and enterprises to higher risks of security vulnerabilities,” the report said.

The USTR report also noted trademark opposition proceedings in the Philippines are still slow. Trademark opposition proceedings are administrative proceedings emerging from individuals or groups complaining against the registration of a mark.

“Trademarks help consumers distinguish providers of products and services from each other and thereby serve a critical source identification role… Many countries need to establish or improve transparency and consistency in their administrative trademark registration procedures,” it said.

China remained on the USTR’s priority watch list for piracy and counterfeiting concerns.

“China’s placement on the Priority Watch List reflects the urgent need for fundamental structural changes to strengthen IP protection and enforcement, including as to trade secret theft, online piracy and counterfeiting, the high- volume manufacture and export of counterfeit goods, and impediments to pharmaceutical innovation,” the report said.

Other countries on the priority watch list include Indonesia, India, Algeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.

The USTR watch list also includes Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru. — Denise A. Valdez