The opening of the Global Congress Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy featured the heads of many different public and private organizations. The themes that were repeated by all speakers were 1) the need to convince the public to have a greater respect for IP; 2) counterfeits pose a threat to health, safety, and economic growth; and 3) all stakeholders, public and private, national, regional and global, need to cooperate together to address the problems of counterfeits and piracy.
After a series of brief welcome messages, Yves Lapierre, Director General of l’Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle (INPI) said that a European Conservatory to Combat Counterfeiting has been established. In 2011, France will carry out an evaluation of its legal tools for fighting counterfeits. INPI’s day-to-day work involves much work fighting internet trade of fakes. In 2009, INPI brought together service providers and copyright holders to develop a system of best practices for fighting online piracy.
Jorge Amigo Castañeda, Director General of the Mexican National Office of Intellectual Property (IMPI) noted that many gains have happened since last year’s Global Congress in Cancun, and that the momentum behind ACTA is growing. Nevertheless, the problem of counterfeiting is growing, which is illustrated by a report on challenges facing the world in 2011, which was recently published by Robert Greenhill from the World Economic Forum. The report says that the illegal economy, corruption, and organized crime all work together to the detriment of society. It estimates the total value of counterfeits in the world to be $360 billion, including $200 billion in counterfeit medicines and $50 billion in counterfeit cigarettes. There is also $60 billion worth of pirated videos. This lessens the economic competitiveness of many countries.
A representative from the French Ministry for Foreign Trade came to the podium (filling in for Pierre Lellouche, the Secretary of State for Foreign Trade) and described the problems of piracy and counterfeiting in France as an economic problem. He notes that France is coming out of a recession, and the government is very much focused on employment, increasing international trade in order to create more jobs in the export sector, and increasing innovation as an economic driver. He discussed national, regional and international work that the French government is engaged in, including a bilateral program with China that is focused on internet piracy. He said that free trade agreements are important drivers, but that they need to be properly implemented and enforced after they are signed. ACTA is very important because it is more ambitious than any other previous agreement, including unique provisions on seizure and destruction of infringing goods; more criminal prosecutions; more possibilities for enforcement at the border. Especially significant, ACTA is the first treaty that specifically deals with the internet. He noted civil society concerns with ACTA, which he called “legitimate,” but which “must be allayed.” ACTA is compatible with the Doha Declaration, won’t interfere with trade of generic drugs, contains and contains no measures for intrusive searches of passengers. Civil society must be convinced of this. Finally, he called on countries that have not signed ACTA to sign it.
Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO, opened a panel discussion by noting that the relatively recent move toward greater protection of intellectual property involved disruptive change. There has been a move to a knowledge economy, and in many countries today we see greater investment in nontangibles than in tangible assets. Partially due to the speed of the transition, there is no widespread appreciation for the value for these intangibles. There has also been a huge change to the world’s economy from the rapid advancement of technologies, especially the internet. Our creative industries see a convergence in the media used for expression, and new models of distribution. Unfortunately, this also creates opportunities for “pillaging and piracy.” For these reasons, it is important that we work to build respect for IP, by transmitting to society at large the “value of human creation.”
Ronald Noble, Secretary General of INTERPOL, talked about two specific operations taken in the past year to combat piracy and counterfeiting. Operation Jupiter 5 in South America involved 13 countries and led to over 7000 arrests and the seizure of over $200 million worth of counterfeit goods. It required a high degree of coordination among the 13 countries – which would have been unthinkable as recently as 2004. In Africa, Operation Mumba 3 involved all different parts of the supply chain including producer, sellers, and websites. They identified 822 websites selling counterfeit medicines. 297 were shut down after service providers were notified. Numerous arrests and 11 convictions were made. These actions were successful, but INTERPOL wants to see local law enforcement provided with more resources to fight counterfeiting.
Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization (WCO) emphasized the violent crime aspect of counterfeiting, mentioning a murdered customs officer. He then described the training work that WCO does to help domestic customs agencies identify counterfeits. In 2010, more than 140 countries received some form of training from WCO. They hold local and regional seminars in cooperation with the private sector, and they review national legislation. They are compiling an online database that will help officers identify counterfeits. IP owners will be able to access it and provide information on how to tell real goods from fake goods, and the database will be available to customs officers. It will be easy to use and in the local language. So far, 70 countries have indicated interest in this tool, which will be available to all organizations fighting counterfeiting and piracy.
Gerhard Bauer, President of the International Trademark Association (ITA) noted that the size of the counterfeiting phenomena is so vast that it is hard to grasp, and that it leads to the ruination of many legitimate businesses. The ITA participated in a summit yesterday to discuss how different organizations can work together to build awareness of the program and to build support for ACTA.
Jean-Guy Carrier, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said that the ICC was founded in the wake of World War I by business leaders who hoped that by building commercial ties among countries, they would guard against future wars. They called themselves “merchants of peace.” He sees the ICC’s work as an extension of this, and being about “more than the bottom line.” He cited a recent WHO study showed that counterfeit medicines in developing countries, just in the area of malaria and pneumonia caused 700,000 deaths a year, and said that consumers need to know the harm associated with purchases of counterfeits. ICC launched the Businesses Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) to address the problem of counterfeiting. They also want to increase awareness of and respect for IP. They calculate that counterfeiting costs the world 200 million jobs in G20 countries every year. Despite the fact that the fight against counterfeiting and piracy has become more visible and there have been many new programs added, the problem continues to grow – so many national governments need to take the effort more seriously. [BASCAP has released a new report “Building Respect for Intellectual Property,” which is available online.]