Multi-Agency Conference Addresses Positive Aspects Of ‘Respect For IP’ 26/10/2018 by Linda Daniels for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Conference delegates at the Respect for IP international conference held in South Africa this week were participants in a series of top-level panel discussions about the conference theme that included views about balancing intellectual property’s economic value with achieving social development goals. The Respect for IP – Growing from the Tip of Africa conference, officially opened on 23 October and provided the space for policy dialogue and idea generation on the conference topic for some 400 participants from some 70 countries. Conference delegates included government ministers, policymakers, judges and senior enforcement officials, as well as representatives from international governmental and non-governmental organisations and businesses. The conference was jointly organised by South Africa’s Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), together with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), World Customs Organization (WCO) and World Trade Organization (WTO). The conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa ended on 25 October. Conference panellists echoed the conference theme in their topic presentations which ranged from “the value of intellectual property for economic growth, small business investment, job creation and development”, “respect for IP through collaborative enforcement” and “harnessing the potential of multilateralism: capacity building through intergovernmental actors.” South Africa Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies kicked off the final day of the conference with a message to delegates about balancing intellectual property rights and social development goals. The minister was unable to attend the conference and appeared in a recorded video message screened to delegates. Davies said: “The world of intellectual property is one where governments award exclusive rights to innovators to allow them to benefit from their innovations…. It is a world where we have to respect multilateral agreements…. We have to balance obligations like public health and the rights of innovators…. We are engaged in a continuous assessment of intellectual property through a very careful investigative process … which will find its way in continuous improvement.” “The theme of the conference speaks to a matter which has been close to the heart of DTI [the Department of Trade and Industry],” he said. “Once we grant the [IP] right … it is important that the right is respected, that it is not undermined by pirating.” “Many people think that if they buy a pirated CD that they are assisting a poor person…. The fact remains that illegal forms of CD’s are produced by criminal syndicates who are probably also responsible for other nefarious crimes. Many people think that if they buy pirated CDs they are ripping off a multinational abroad. In fact, the largest number of illicit CDs are the works of local artists and this is damaging to local artists.” Davies added that digitally transmitted works have created new challenges around intellectual property rights enforcement. There was a general consensus among conference speakers that digital technologies have fundamentally transformed global commerce. Kwee Tiang Ang, regional director, Asian Regional Office, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), also discussed the challenge that digital technology presents to IP rights, in a panel discussion session titled: “Trade in a borderless world: The contribution of IP rights to development.” He took delegates back to the year 1999 when the global music industry was worth US$ 25 billion with almost all sales due to the sale of physical records. This golden era was upended by digital piracy with the advent of Napster, the peer-to-peer file sharing internet service, he said. “It facilitated tremendous amounts of copies,” said Kwee Tiang Ang. “The record industry went into a tailspin for the next 15 years. The music industry had to adapt.” He said that initially the record industry tried to recoup its losses from digital piracy with aggressive court battles and this was subsequently followed by licensing, and then, “last year, the industry started growing again… The record industry has adapted to the digital marketplace.” However, challenges in securing intellectual property rights remain. These include issues such as digital piracy and what Kwee Tiang Ang called the ‘value gap’. The value gap is generally described as the discrepancy between the value that digital service providers receive from the use of music by users on their platforms and the revenue returned to the music production ecosystem, which is made up of artists, composers and businesses who all contributed to the creation of that music. Despite the challenges to intellectual property that digital technology presents, IP located in trade, especially for developing countries, was a considerable talking point at the conference. Keith Nurse, senior fellow, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies and World Trade Organization chair, University of the West Indies Barbados, told conference delegates: “If you look at IP from a trade standpoint, most developing countries don’t show up on the Richter scale…. When you look at data for the use of IP… developing countries are off the map…. We need to boost the issue of trade.” “If you are able to trade your IP, it means you are competitive,” he said. “Otherwise, you’ll download other people’s content. It’s [IP] the one area where every country has capabilities. The benefits of IP will not come automatically, it means countries have to come up with a strategy.” Nurse said developing countries have to embed IP in trade. He said that generally, IP is not in the trade strategy for developing countries. “All countries have brands that they can tap into,” he said. “It can be geographic indicators. There are cross-sectoral dimensions of IP that can be exploited.” The importance of securing intellectual property rights and multilateralism were recurring subthemes of the conference, with panellists referring to their value of IP as a major economic driver. Agata Gerba, deputy head, Intellectual Property and Public Procurement, Directorate-General for Trade at the European Commission, explained that IP generated 38 percent of all jobs in the EU. “Micro and small medium enterprises achieve higher revenues when they use IP,” she said. “Currently these businesses don’t use IP enough. They are afraid of costs. We need to help businesses understand IP. In a knowledge-based market, businesses will not be able to compete if they don’t embrace IP.” Gerba added that technology must be protected because it gives countries a competitive edge. “We need to allow licensing to thrive. We have to see the internet for what it is – it is a medium for delivering services.” She said that digital consumption has produced the challenge of countering counterfeiting in the digital realm, and described this kind of counterfeiting as a “loss to everyone for business for countries and consumers.” Regional alliances and the measures they have put in place to promote and safeguard IP were also major talking points at the conference. In a conference session titled, Regional Alliances: Agents of growth and champions of effective IP systems, Rongai Chizema, chief technical advisor and head, Implementation and Coordination Unit, Department of Trade and Industry in the African Union Commission, described to delegates the origin story of the African Union (AU). The union was initially established in 1963 as the Organization for African Unity and was at the time pre-occupied with neo-colonialism. Chizema said that since then, the AU has over the years focused its responsibilities on economic development. “The subject of IP is very central to economic transformation for the continent,” he explained, adding that innovation and IP are part of the development agenda for the continent. “For industrialization to move [forward], we need technology…, we need innovation and so IP becomes a very important discussion point,” he said. Speaking on the same panel as Chizema, Lungile Dukwana, chief strategy executive, CIPC, DTI, expressed the relevance of the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] alliance as representing some of the fastest growing emerging economies. Dukwana said that initially BRICS did not express themselves as a group on IP but are now promoting public awareness of IP in BRICS countries. “The benefit of BRICS is that we are coming from a common position,” Dukwana said. “We’ve been working on areas of education and making sure SMMES understand and respect IP…. IP must be used as strategic tool to innovate and gives an opportunity grow our own economies.” While the conference sparked conversation and dialogue among delegates, it was also not free from criticism. The Fix the Patent Laws Coalition, “a coalition of 40 patient groups and civil society organisations representing most major diseases areas in South Africa,” issued a statement about the conference which read in part: “Amongst others this conference will discuss ‘how intellectual property crime can be treated with higher priority by police authorities to ensure the safety of the public.’ We are disturbed by the insensitivity and tone-deafness of hosting such a meeting in South Africa, a country where excessive respect for intellectual property (IP) meant that HIV medicines remained excessively priced at a time when people were dying of the disease in large numbers. A country infamously sued by 39 international drug companies for attempting to improve access to affordable medicines in 1999. There is ample evidence that South Africa’s legal framework currently provides too much respect for intellectual property. A 2011 University of Pretoria paper found that as many as 80% of patents granted in South Africa do not meet the country’s legal criteria for patentability. A 2012 research report found that when presented with the same set of patent applications, South Africa typically grants around 66% more patents than the United States or European Union. We have so much respect for intellectual property in South Africa that at present we grant patents without examining whether the patents are merited. Government has finally started a process to institute a patent examination system, but this will take time to get off the ground. For now, we continue to give away patents without scrutiny.” Image Credits: WIPO Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Linda Daniels may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Multi-Agency Conference Addresses Positive Aspects Of ‘Respect For IP’" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.