Why Funny Filipino Brand Rip-offs Should be Taken Seriously

(Photo Credit: positivelyfilipino.com)

Filipinos are known to be happy-go-lucky, funny, and creative people.  Most often than not, Filipinos take it to a different level when creating business names.  Although, it’s funny from a customer perspective, it’s totally different when you already have your own business.

For example, if you are a business owner, you wouldn’t want someone to mimic your concept and use it to their advantage.  A similar scenario was when Skechers’ BOBS blatantly copied TOMS’ concept of creating a similar design and also donating a pair of shoes to less fortunate people. Furthermore, the brand name has similarities: (1) guy’s name, (2) 4-letter word, and (3) familiar feel. In fact, Skechers was ridiculed by consumers, especially, marketing gurus, for showing lack of creativity and discipline.

This clearly shows an act of stealing someone’s business concept or in business, an intellectual property.  Significantly, it is flattering to know someone appreciates your concept, but it could mean an adverse effect on your business.


Trademark Registration in the Philippines 

In starting a business, you have to make sure your business is safe and protected by law.  Although, registering your business name is secured during the first steps of putting up a business, it’s essential to own a trademark.  Owning a trademark ensures your business concept is patented and cannot be replicated nor duplicated.  This gives you the power of exclusivity and whoever copies your trademark (or concept) will be punished legally.

Ultimately, trademark registration in the Philippines is one of the solutions. You just have to secure a duly accomplished registration form to be filed at the Bureau of Trademarks of the Intellectual Property Office located in Taguig City.

Once the agency receives your request for trademark, they will perform necessary research and examination to ensure your concept is unique and rightfully done. After which, they will hand you an Issuance of the Certificate of Registration to prove that your business is relevant.

The filing of trademark takes about 6-18 months so, the earlier you register, the better.

There is also a minimal fee of Php 1,080 (small business with less than 1 million peso-income). Once your trademark is properly filed, your trademark will be included in the IP (Intellectual Property) Philippines Gazette. When in doubt, you can consult a lawyer to guide you or if you want a worry-free process, you may hire a firm to help you.

I am sure you’d agree that in the Philippines, intellectual theft is rampant because of the people patronizing micro businesses who rip-off brands for a much cheaper price. In fact, local stores everywhere love to create business names that are obviously rip-offs and offer cheaper rates than the original ones.

Here are some of the reasons why you should be more diligent in protecting your business ideas.

  1. Filipinos are “creative”

Apparently, most of the small business Filipino owners play fast and loose with intellectual rights, especially, the ones you see in the streets. Here are some of them:

  • A neighbourhood pizza store named “Pizza Hot,” which sounds like Pizza Hut
  • “Caintacky Fried Chicken” – Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • “Mekeni Rogers” – Kenny Rogers
  • “Harry Cutter” (barbershop) – sounds like Harry Potter
  • “Petal Attraction” (flower shop) – derived from the movie Fatal Attraction
  • “Goldirocks Gravel and Sand” – Goldilocks
  • Starbuko (coconut juice vendor) – Starbucks

At this point, you’re probably wondering how these brands are still allowed to operate when it’s clearly stated in the DTI registration form (a form used in registering your business name) that business name should not sound misleading nor sound similar to other brands.  Yet, there are businesses that don’t abide by law.  Usually, lack of knowledge in legally starting a business is ubiquitous among small businesses like the above mentioned brands.

  1. Intellectual Property Infringement is NOT limited to your logo

Copying a logo is the most common intellectual property infringement done by most Filipinos. It is however, one of the misconceptions of violating intellectual property.  In fact, 54% of Filipinos are aware of the copyright infringements but only towards pirated CDs and DVDs only.  Essentially, an intellectual property refers to your creative thoughts such as inventions, images, artistic works, and business names.  In short, anything you’ve created in mind for your business is a form of intellectual property.

Therefore, IP infringement is not limited to your logo but can also be applicable to the following practices:

  • Photocopying of textbooks – you are probably surprised about this but yes, this is considered a violation. You are disrespecting and violating the author’s rights by reproducing the books for a cheaper price without their consent. However, a “fair use policy” was conceptualized for all learning materials photocopied and scanned from the library. As a form of respect, the user must indicate that the copies are “not for commercial use”.
  • Using images for commercial use without proper credit.
  • Reproducing movies, songs, software, etc.
  • Selling counterfeited luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and more.

All of the above-mentioned violations are considered an act of crime and are punishable by law.  As stated in the IP code, offenders will face one (1) to three (3) years imprisonment and are expected to pay P50, 000 to P150, 000 fines.

  1. Out of Sight, out of mind

Unfortunately, these intellectual property violations can only be resolved by business owners like you.  With this intention, as a business or entrepreneur, you should be more proactive in taking these not-so-funny rip-offs seriously. The government can only do so much, so you should take the initiative by exposing these copycats and reporting them.

Coming up with a unique business concept is extremely hard.  I’ve probably romanticized with my books on how to put up a unique concept, but it’s totally different if you’re already applying it to your own business.

Coming up with an effective business concept is vital to the development of your company, hence, protect it by aiming for your intellectual property rights. While it is flattering to be imitated by other (small or large-scale) businesses, you should be diligent in protecting your business names.

About Danella Yaptinchay

Danella Yaptinchay is the managing director of Full Suite, a service company providing back end support to small businesses. She is also a cofounder of Co.lab, a coworking space, and of the media company Homegrown. In constant pursuit of balance and self-development, she tries to apply the practices of yoga to her daily life.