Philipsburg – The Ministry of Justice will host St. Maarten’s 1st Annual Anti-Counterfeiting and Brand Protection Conference on September 29th and 30th, 2022. The conference is the result of the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson’s effort to activate awareness of the manufacturing and trade of counterfeit products as a high-priority item for the Ministry. Counterfeiting and the infringement on intellectual property rights are both criminal acts and significantly harm the economic viability and stability of an economy. This crime seriously threatens the economy and reputation of St. Maarten and poses significant health and safety risks to consumers.
In a bid to address this, Minister Richardson and her support staff met with Director Enforcement at DISOSA Brand Protection Services (DISOSA BPS), Mr. Louis Comvalius on July 7th, to discuss the status of counterfeit products being sold in St. Maarten and together with DISOSA, create a resilient anti-counterfeiting strategy for St. Maarten to tackle this long-standing issue. The conference is a crucial part in solving the issue, after which a plan of approach will be developed considering the most optimal way to diminish counterfeit products within the market.
Minister Richardson also met with the Indian Merchant Association (IMA) on July 15th, to discuss her counteractive plans in addressing the issue. During the meeting, representatives of the IMA thanked Minister Richardson for her initiative and expressed their support for Minister Richardson’s approach to revitalizing the economy.
The Ministry of Justice has the role and responsibility to manage both the flows of people (immigration) and goods (Customs) that enter and pass through St. Maarten. Specifically, controlling the in-and outflow of goods is the core responsibility of the Customs Department which ensures that illegal products such as drugs, weapons, and counterfeit products do not enter the island thereby servicing what is universally known as the black market.
Minister Richardson stated, “For far too long there have been many brands that have not been established on St. Maarten also due to the vast number of counterfeit products being sold locally. Brand holders are interested in coming to St. Maarten because of our close connection to the US. As such, together with the Customs Department and DISOSA, I aim to shift the demand away from counterfeit products to authentic products and in doing so, educate stakeholders, consumers, businesses, Parliament, and Government on the benefits of being able to rely on authenticity and quality of the products purchased in St. Maarten.”
The Ministry has assembled a panel of industry experts from around the world to discuss how counterfeiting has negatively affected and stained St. Maarten, to be present at the Anti-Counterfeiting and Brand Protection Conference. The objective is to further construct a sophisticated strategy to outline how St. Maarten can be redirected away from being listed as a black-market territory and restore its position as an attractive jurisdiction for brands to establish their businesses. In the coming days, the Ministry will be sending official invites to various stakeholders to confirm their attendance at the conference.
Minister Richardson has also taken note of the Philipsburg Promotional Board’s (PPB) initiative to revitalize Philipsburg as the capital with a Ferris wheel attraction on Boardwalk Boulevard, turning unused concrete stumps into planters, brightening alleys with themed decor, a mega LED screen at the center of Boardwalk Boulevard and a huge lighted “Great Bay” sign on Great Bay beach. PBB outlined its plans in February 2022, in a bid to create an atmosphere where people want to go to experience Philipsburg as a destination for shopping, leisure, services and business during the day or night. In addition, the Ministry of Justice is working on the finalization, implementation, and enforcement of the parking and towing policy.
This multiple-goal approach is all with the end goal to restore St. Maarten’s name as “the Gem of the Caribbean.” The Ministry of Justice will continue to implement measures that contribute to realizing a safe and attractive St. Maarten for residents, business owners, brands and tourists.