A Project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society

World Intellectual Property Organization Daily Report from Geneva - Jan 30

NGOWatch

World Intellectual Property Organization Daily Report

January 30, 2007

Francois-Henri Briard, President of the Federalist Society's Paris Chapter, was present for Day 1 of WIPO's Global Congress on Counterfeiting and Piracy. What follows is his daily report for Tuesday, January 30th.

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WIPO's Global Congress on Counterfeiting and Piracy

Day 1 of WIPO's Global Congress on Counterfeiting and Piracy featured several prominent speakers, including the INTERPOL General Secretary, the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization, the Vice President and General Counselor for DaimlerChrysler, the Secretary of State of Germany, the Deputy Director General of WIPO, the Head of Intellectual Property Unit EU, the Vice President of the People's Supreme Court of China, and the Attorney General of Kenya. The overarching theme that these speakers emphasized was the importance of intellectual property in the modern world, and the need to effectively combat counterfeiting and piracy.

The annual economic losses from counterfeiting and piracy represent about $150 billion a year, or an average of about 3% of GDP. Furthermore, every sector of the economy and every company, whether private or public, is affected by these problems today. The magnitude of the counterfeiting industry is huge, perhaps reaching up to 7% of world trade. The general public is often not aware of the wide-reaching scope of counterfeited products (counterfeited brakes and pharmaceutical products were held up as examples). Neither are they cognizant of their inherent safety risks. Pirated products are not a "good deal": not only do they raise issues of morality and economic damages, they can also have a substantial negative impact on the health and safety of the consumer.

Many of the speakers emphasized the fact that counterfeiting and piracy are not simply domestic problems. They are global issues, and it is in the national interest of governments to develop and improve legislation that protects intellectual property. Counterfeiting issues are issues of national security: piracy operations are serious, large scale activities, the profits of which often go to fund terrorist activities. Additionally, the innovation and creativity intrinsic to intellectual property is essential to a nation's growth. This means that global cooperation concerning counterfeiting and piracy, as well as an effective system for information collecting and exchange, are necessary to eradicate these practices.

Many practical steps to ensuring the proper protection of intellectual property were suggested. First, legal systems need to be coordinated. This includes improving international dialogue and cooperation on these issues, perhaps enlisting the help of nongovernmental organizations. WIPO serves as an excellent example of the services that international and nongovernmental organizations can provide by serving as a forum for international review and for developing new measures to fight against counterfeiting and piracy. A harmonized international framework to prosecute pirates and counterfeiters is also needed.

A comprehensive strategy for targeting organized piracy was also suggested. Developing means that empower innovators to secure their rights, pursuing criminal enterprises, enhancing border security, outreach and cooperation with private industry, and engaging global partners are all necessary components of such a strategy. It is also important to maintain an open dialogue with industry.

Finally, the importance of raising public awareness of the dangers of counterfeited products was highlighted by many of the speakers. Not only do policy makers need to be educated and convinced of the importance of actively combating counterfeiting and piracy, consumers also need to made aware of the dangers of pirated products. Due to the fact that much of the general public is unaware of the economic damages and safety risks that counterfeited goods produce, education campaigns and efforts to change the public perception of pirated products need to be given priority.