By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The United States has called out the Philippines for the use of “unlicensed software” in government offices and urged to set a good example of respecting intellectual property rights to private sector enterprises.
This issue was pointed out in the 2019 Special 301 Watch List of the US Trade Representative (USTR) even as the report maintained the country’s good standing in intellectual property rights protection for the sixth consecutive year.
According to USTR, the Philippines was among other governments such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam where further work on legitimate software remains an issue with these trading partners.
“The United States urges trading partners to adopt and implement effective and transparent procedures to ensure legitimate governmental use of software,” the USTR said.
These countries were urged to legitimize their own activities in order to set an example of respecting IP for private enterprises. It reminded governments that unlicensed software exposes governments and enterprises to higher risks of security vulnerabilities.
“It is important for governments to legitimize their own activities in order to set an example of respecting IP for private enterprises,” the report said.
According to a study by BSA | The Software Alliance, the commercial value of unlicensed software globally was at least $46 billion in 2018. The US said that it continues to work with other governments to address government use of unlicensed software, particularly in countries that are modernizing their software systems or where there are infringement concerns.
The report though said that considerable progress has been made under this initiative, leading to numerous trading partners mandating that their government agencies use only legitimate software.
Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) Director General Josephine R. Santiago told reporters covering at the culmination of the National IP Month celebration at the Manila Peninsula Hotel that following the USTR report her agency would be meeting with relevant government agencies to address the issue to discuss how this can be solved.
“Definitely, it is also our position that government be an example to all sectors of society,” Santiago said. She also expressed hope that necessary budget for procurement of licensed software will be made within the year to remove this issue against the Philippines in next year’s USTR review. This was the first time that this issue was raised by the USTR against the Philippines.
The USTR has been out of the USTR Watch List of IPR violators for the sixth consecutive year already. But she stressed that the Philippines will not stop at being just out of the Watch List and be happy about it.
“Whether we are in the Watch List or not, we continue to do what is right and spread the benefits of IP on all sectors, including government,” she added.
Santiago also stressed the benefit of having a licensed software, which can be easily downloaded online for free, is it enables the user to get updates to address the many malwares and viruses and cybersecurity that are dangerous and very risky especially for government data.
“IPHOPHL really would like to promote the use of licensed software by all sectors of society,” said Santiago.
She expressed hope that when they meet with the Department of ICT and Department of Budget and Management and other relevant agencies, including Congress, “We could make some progress in our discussion.”
This issue, however, could not be a threat to bringing the Philippines back in the USTR Watch List of IPR violators.
Santiago explained that USTR would like to see that efforts are done and effects are seen even if not completely solved. “They don’t usually bring you back in the list the following year. The lack of effort is what they don’t want,” she said.