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The Politicization Of The US Patent System

The Washington Post story, How patent reform’s fraught politics have left USPTO still without a boss (July 30), is a vivid account of how patent reform has divided the US economy, preempting a possible replacement for David Kappos who stepped down 18 months ago. The division is even bigger than portrayed. Universities have lined up en masse to oppose reform, while main street businesses that merely use technology argue for reform. Reminiscent of the partisan divide that has paralyzed US politics, this struggle crosses party lines and extends well beyond the usual inter-industry debates. Framed in terms of combating patent trolls through technical legal fixes, there lurks a broader economic concern – to what extent ordinary retailers, bank, restaurants, local banks, motels, realtors, and travel agents should bear the burden of defending against patents as a cost of doing business.


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    US IP Officials Blast NGOs In Geneva

    Published on 16 December 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    Washington, DC – United States attachés stationed around the world in order to promote intellectual property rights reported on their activities to US industry here last week. And the attachès posted in Geneva had strong words for the work of non-governmental organisations operating at the World Trade Organization and the United Nations agencies.

    The US Patent and Trademark Office operates a growing IP attaché programme that posts officials in a number of major cities worldwide. Last week, an annual gathering of the attachés was held at the US Chamber of Commerce, the industry association.

    IP attachés are being placed in nine cities around the world: Geneva; Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Cairo, New Delhi, Mexico City, Moscow, and Bangkok.

    The stated goals of the IP attaché are:
    To promote U.S. government IPR policy internationally.
    To help secure strong IPR provisions in international agreements and host country laws.
    To encourage strong IPR protection and enforcement by U.S. trading partners for the benefit of U.S. rights holders.

    Karin Ferriter, the IP attaché to the World Trade Organization, had particularly sharp words for non-governmental organisations operating in Geneva, where she said there a “number of people working to undermine IP.”

    Such opponents are “heavily populated” in Geneva but not typically found in the capitals, she said. She referred to a recent trip she had to Cameroon, where, she said, government officials were “true believers” and want better quality products through IP rights.

    “People in Geneva are misinformed by the NGO community to devalue IP,” Ferriter said. And the job of the IP attachés is to remind them of the importance of IP and a strong IP system.

    “Unfortunately,” she said, NGOs “are working just as much as possible to weaken the IP system.” There is a disconnect, Ferriter said, “but that’s where we come in, to help them see the value of it.”

    Ferriter said least-developed countries are being counselled to extend the deadline to enforce the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) at the WTO. She argued that it is not to their own advantage to keep putting it off.

    Todd Reves, the IP attaché to the UN in Geneva, particularly the World Intellectual Property Organization, concurred with Ferriter. He said in Geneva, it is often a case of “the wrong people talking to the right people.” Some diplomats there are not IP experts, and some are given more flexibility to act on their government’s behalf, so they are “more susceptible” to the messages of the NGOs. “They may be hearing the wrong message,” he said.

    “There is a significant gap between Geneva and the rest of the world,” Reves said. Debates at Geneva institutions are used by countries to advance their foreign policy goals.

    In general, Reves said it has been an “incredibly busy year” in Geneva, referring indirectly to developments such as the discovery that WIPO was transferring high technology to sanctioned countries like North Korea and Iran. He also gave a list of normative work occurring at WIPO, like the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances.

    But he also said developing countries continue to push to use flexibilities in IP law, and push the make the IP system fit different levels of development. “These are things developed countries really try to push back on,” he said.

    The attaché in Brazil, Albert Keyack, said there are changes coming in that country. He said the NGOs in Brazil are “fairly vocal,” but that Brazil has “good laws in place.” He also pointed to indications of support for patents by the Brazilian president. It is recognised in Brazil that it has a “wonderful” higher education system but is low in patenting, and is working to change this.

    Peter Fowler, the regional attaché for Southeast Asia, said that in that region, intellectual property rights are equated with products being more expensive. So, he said, it is important to focus on the positive benefits of IP. He said that NGOs there are overwhelmingly anti-IP, and are good about echoing the view that IP creates barriers to access and raises costs.

    But, Fowler said, there is “no serious government” in the region that is not doing something to improve the IP system. He pointed to Malaysia as an example.

    He also said IPR is playing a role in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and that many companies in the region understand the importance of protecting copyrights, trademarks and so forth. There is a “flurry” of activity among countries, improving their IP systems. They may not be able to get complete harmonisation of their IP laws, but they are looking at what each other is doing, he said, adding, “It’s not all bad.”

    Fowler said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations include 4 ASEAN countries and there is a “ripple effect.” It will raise the bar in ASEAN as to what is expected of countries, he said.

    He encouraged industry to step up its involvement in the region. In many countries in Southeast Asia, there are no loud vocal champions, no IP constituents saying, ‘this is what we need’, he said, though this is starting to change.

    Fowler also said that in very few legislatures or Parliaments are there voices that advocate for IP. There are “a lot of great policies [and] draft legislation that just sits there, doesn’t move,” he said.

    Reves summed up: “We’re trying to change the view that IP is bad to IP is good.” He mentioned an enterprise forum that is in the works for the 2013 WIPO General Assembly next October, at which companies will highlight the advantages of IP rights. He said that while “the jury is still out,” he is optimistic that five years from now the debate in Geneva will turn more pro-IP.

    Ferriter agreed, pointing to positive changes in countries such as Brazil or Vietnam. “It will take time,” she said, “but IP is clearly here to stay.”

    William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. US IP Officials Blast NGOs In Geneva – Intellectual Property Watch | Legal Planet says:

      [...] See the article here: CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE [...]

    2. US IP Officials Blast NGOs In Geneva and blame them for undermining IP | Don't trade our lives away says:

      [...] Source: Intellectual Property Watch [...]

    3. Jeremy says:

      So…they have people who disagree with them and show why there pro-ip position may not be the best course so they whine about it?

    4. Lucy says:

      The IPR Officials seem to have been very active in trying to work with (not against) other countries. Even though there are some differences in IP policy among other countries, the Attaches have shown to be diplomatic and respectful about such differences.

    5. Most-Read IP-Watch Stories Of 2012: India Pharma, Europe, ACTA, WIPO Technical Assistance, Gene Patents | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] Human Genes Are Not PatentableHow are they going to distinguish human genes from… »Lucy on US IP Officials Blast NGOs In GenevaThe IPR Officials seem to have been very active in… »Older » For IPW Subscribers A [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

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    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

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    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

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