THE National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR) is warning against the counterfeiting of masks and other goods needed to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) after a surge in complaints during the enhanced community quarantine.

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said in a statement Saturday that its enforcement office received 21 counterfeiting and piracy complaints in March, surpassing the 14 complaints for 2019. IPOPHL is the vice-chair of the NCIPR.

IPOPHL said that products likely to attract significant counterfeiting include masks, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, hygiene products, food, and beverages.

“Counterfeiters will likely ride on the wave of the public’s spending behavior, as observed historically in both local and global markets,” IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba said.

“The gaping hole between supply and demand all over the world is also an easy entry point for counterfeiters. We saw this week that amid the continuing global mask shortage, mask maker 3M Co. filed its first COVID-related lawsuit for alleged trademark infringement, among others,” he said, adding that products that bypass quality control checks for food and medicine can damage health.

IPOPHL said that among March reports, 19% involved piracy or the illegal streaming or downloading of movies.

“The findings are expected given that many are scrambling to find various sources of entertainment during the quarantine period,” Mr. Barba said.

“We have taken action by informing the rights holders, associations, and involved platforms and coordinating with them for the successful removal of the offending posts or offers.”

The office said that seizure operations and case filings are suspended while trial courts are shut, but that the NCIPR is hoping that the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Customs could help contain counterfeiting at checkpoints.

“We were assured by the PNP and Customs that their inspection efforts will be thorough enough to capture counterfeits, arrest their movement, and prevent them from exacerbating our present burdens,” IPOPHL Deputy Director General Teodoro C. Pascua said.

Mr. Barba asked the public to report products they suspect are counterfeit, including those from online sellers. — Jenina P. Ibañez