Intellectual Property Rights in the Philippines and the Pinoy's Knack for Spoofs

Filipinos love parodies and spoofs. I am personally very entertained by the wittiness of many of them. In spite of the notion that it's not original or that it's gaya-gaya (copycat), I feel that it still takes a lot of wit and skill to come up with really funny spoofs and parodies.

Kapag naasar si Mang Inasal baka ipasara ang Mang Inasar

I'm pretty sure that you don't even need a good lawyer to argue in court that this is a direct violation of trademark and copyright. Surely though, big companies won't waste time engaging a civil case against small businesses. It would be shallow and would most definitely be bad publicity. Why would they want to wage war on smalltime entrepreneurs just trying to make a living through voluntary exchange?

The problem here is that it is left to the discretion of the big companies if they will pursue such a quest in protecting their trademark. An establishment in Batangas called Mang Donald's was actually forced to stop operation after a legal suit from McDonald's. McDonald's didn't think that was a petty issue at all. You think smalltime businesses Mang Inasar or Mang Donald's will have the resources to go against the expensive lawyers of big businesses?

T-shirts with spoofed trademarks is quite lucrative in the Philippines

Us libertarians are actually divided on the issue of IPR or Intellectual Property Rights. Some minarchists and objectivists would actually argue for strong enforcement of IPR because they deem that this protects and encourages innovation while others like those from the Mises Institute believe that only physical property should be protected because IPR only gives the government the power to grant monopoly to big businesses.

yellow pedicab
I wonder what they sell in Yellow Pedicab

Also, all these trademark issues could be considered to be just the tip of the iceberg. Let's take for instance more serious commodities like medicine, like let's say a pharmaceutical company invented a new drug against cancer. Defenders of IPR will say that the innovators must be protected for they used up a lot of resources and skills just to be able to come up with the new drug. Those against it will be saying that this is merely granting one company monopoly and that it discourages competition. Imagine if only one company had the right to sell paracetamol up to now (another thing very arbitrary about IPR is that bureaucrats decide how many years an inventor can have monopoly over his/her invention). 

facebool fishball
Mark Zuckerberg's Fishball Stand

Being an aspiring artist myself, I understand the merits of owning the things I produce. Let's say I made a song or a film or took awesome photographs, I wouldn't want random people using/selling these things ("pirating") for their own profit without crediting or justly compensating me. This is the point of defenders of IPR who merely want to extend this kind of right for all, even for our hypothetical pharmaceutical company that invented a cancer drug.

But then the gray area comes in when it comes to something like remixing or covers of songs, for example. Let's say someone decides to remix/cover a song I made and it becomes very popular and people start buying that song. That is the market indicating that he was able to innovate and make my song better. This can be applied to our fictional cancer drug. What if a competing company believes that it can make the cancer drug even more effective and safer or with less side-effects. The company who invented the drug, because of IPR, will have the prerogative not to allow them to mess around their drug thus hindering further innovation and competition.

A fellow libertarian and strong advocate of IPR argued to me though that if there is an "inventive step" then it will no longer be covered by IPR and will be allowed to compete. The big problem though is, as a libertarian being wary of bureaucracy, it will be bureaucrats who will be judging whether the "inventive step" is justified or not. In the long run, only big businesses who have the resources to hire really good lawyers will win and be granted monopoly by government thus killing competitors, especially small businesses.

It's really such a complex ethical dilemma with both sides providing rational arguments. All in all, I still find the spoofs and parodies very entertaining and, in a sense, innovative. How about you? What do you think about this whole IPR issue?

Other Related Posts:
1. Property Rights and Economic Freedom
2. Democracy Forum in DLSU
3. Freedom of Information Bill in the Philippines


  1. That's the beauty of trademark. Known brands -- jollibee, mcdo, starbucks, coke, chowking, etc. -- can get spoofed. Its easy to spoof and copy, but its hard to develop a brand that will be liked by so many people for so many years. You abolish trademark, one can put up a food shop with lousy or expired food and use a mcdo or jolibee wrapper and make lots of money. When customers get food poisoning, who do they sue -- the real mcdo or the trademark theft? Who's accountable now if IPR is abolished, the IPR abolitionists? :-)

    Whether IPR should be respected and enforced or not, is different to who shd enforce it. A mall has its own security, it enforces its law against stealing, they don't need the state police or brgy tanod to do that. Private enforcement of property right is possible, and such private enforcement of IPR is possible via industry associations. So the paranoid opposition to IPR simply because the state will enforce it holds no water.

    If there were no copyright in songs, perhaps EHeads and Parokya could become famous by simply singing "Hey Jude" in the same tune, just Filipino translation, and they can get get rich too. But because of exclusivity and copyright, EHeads, Parokya, etc. invented their own songs, totally different from what the Beatles, U2, etc sang. And they got rich and famous with original songs. Copyrights, IPR and exclusivity will force people to become innovative and creative. The copycaters and lazy who only want to steal someone else's composition and do no original song but still want to get rich and famous will not be happy with IPR.

    That's why I keep arguing that IPR abolition is for the lazy and non-innovative. Why invent the Figaro brand when you can just steal Starbucks or UCC brand? Why compose "Harana" or "Ligaya" when you can just steal "Hey Jude" or "Stuck in a moment" and sing it, do concerts as if you also composed it? Why spend xx million $ inventing a costly but life saving drug when you can just steal it and say "I also invented it" then sell it? Why be innovative if you can steal?

    On medicine invention, if 10 innovator pharma companies have successfully invented a new drug each against breast cancer or prostate cancer, then that's 10 new monopoly drugs competing in the market based on efficacy and price. What's wrong with this? No single pharma company has the monopoly of anti-breast cancer drug, there are 10 of them now. And there were many other pharma companies that have invented a drug for the same disease but their patents have already expired. That makes the number of competing drugs from different competing manufacturers big.

  2. Btway Harry, I noticed that you repeatedly mentioned "big business" with sarcastic or negative attitude. Libertarians should love big business, if they become big due to efficiency and innovation, not via political cronyism and protection. Efficient companies have no way but up, to become big because they get the patronage and continued support by many consumers. Lousy companies will remain small, if not go bankrupt later on. Cheers.

  3. i could tell you what the yellow pedicab pizza sells!!! because i was the one who made the image!!!


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