UK calls for global effort to tackle IP theft

The UK is calling for international collaboration to fight piracy and counterfeiting to protect intellectual property

UK business secretary Vince Cable has called for international collaboration to fight piracy and counterfeiting, saying national efforts to protect intellectual property are insufficient.

“Cross-border leakages are now enormous, and there is a recognition of the potential losses as a result of cross-border piracy," he told the first International IP Enforcement Summit in London.

Cable said although piracy now carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years and UK legislation allows enforcement agencies to obtain search warrants and seize counterfeit goods, more needs to be done.

Payment service providers and advertisers should boycott "dodgy websites", and alternatives need to be developed to encourage people to use legal routes, he said.

Cable said there is a direct link between economic performance and IP theft, with every 1% increase in IP crime estimated to cost the UK economy 1% of GDP, which works out at £1.7bn, The Daily Telegraph reports.

In the international community, Cable said China is becoming a key player in developing a global approach to protecting the IP of creative industries.

He said China looks set to overtake the US and India as the world’s biggest producer of films. "It has occurred to the Chinese that if they have this creative industry, they will need to protect its content," he said.

Heinz Zourek, director-general of the European Commission's Taxation and Customs Union, backed Cable's call, saying enforcement needs to be done in a collaborative, co-operative manner.

"IP enforcement policy ought to be focused on the fight against commercial-scale IP infringement activity, which is most harmful for the EU economy," he said.

Zourek revealed that the European Commission is developing a single-market IP policy that will take a ‘follow the money’ approach to transnational counterfeiting activities, reports World Trademark Review.

In April, Mike Weatherley MP, IP adviser to prime minister David Cameron, said that the next step in the fight is to block advertising revenue to sites that sell pirated or counterfeit goods.

The issue of IP theft is being taken much more seriously by the UK government and has moved up the agenda, Weatherley told an event at Parliament organised by the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) and Microsoft.

In November, a study commissioned by Europe’s Office for Harmonisation of the Internal Market (OHIM) found that although 96% of Europeans believe IP is important, 34% think buying counterfeit goods can be justified to save money and 42% think illegal downloading is acceptable for personal use.

OHIM president António Campinos said success depends on delivering a clear, co-ordinated international message, drawing on methodologically sound findings about the impact of infringement.

The OHIM plans a study to measure the negative impact of IP theft in terms of lost jobs and losses to the economy.

OHIM believes that showing what infringement means in real terms for individuals will have a more immediate impact and will be communicated to a younger audience more easily.

“I am convinced that citizens think IP is a good thing for innovation, but when it comes to their own actions, they don’t respect it to the same degree,” said Campinos.

“So we are on the brink of losing the young generation and need to present clear narratives.”

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