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International IP Enforcement Summit calls for united effort to address IP abuses

More than 300 government and business leaders came together in London this week to press for stronger intellectual property (IP) enforcement measures in Europe and worldwide. The International IP Enforcement Summit was hosted by the United Kingdom IP Organization, European Commission, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market and the EU Observatory on Infringements of IP.

“The support and involvement of the leaders of these key government organizations is a clear demonstration that enforcement of IP rights is a critical public policy issue,” said Jeff Hardy, Director of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) initiative. “We are eager to work with these officials to follow up on discussions from the conference to implement ever stronger policy, legislative and enforcement measures to stop IP theft,” he said.

In his keynote address, Unilever CEO Paul Polman pointed out that the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods results in more than US$1 trillion in annual losses to global economies, governments and consumers. “It denies governments of legitimate tax revenues and attracts criminal behaviour, and it jeopardizes entire industries by putting the trust we have spent years building in our companies and brands, at risk,” he said. Mr Polman said that the problem was not only about the theft of IP but also about the theft of the trust consumers had in brands. Mr Polman underscored the responsibility that companies have towards all members of society to supply products that can make a real difference.

Mr Polman called on European government leaders to follow the lead of the United Kingdom in passing legislation to allow for the confiscation of proceeds of IP crime, including its application to the extended supply chain which also profits from counterfeit activity. He also said that the European Union should take practical measures and set even higher standards to ensure that its efforts to combat counterfeiting and piracy were “the best of the best”. Mr Polman called for more action to stop abuses of free trade zones for counterfeiting and piracy activities, urging governments to act on the recommendations in the BASCAP report Controlling Free Trade Zones, to ensure adequate customs controls in the zones and to implement standards and guidelines for zone operators to keep criminals out.

He also called on leaders to put intermediaries who facilitate counterfeiting and piracy on notice that their actions will not be tolerated. He cited the increasing exploitation of the online environment by criminal networks attracted by the high level of online anonymity as an example of the need for action against unscrupulous intermediaries in the supply chain.

Mr Hardy echoed the need for action on intermediaries. In his remarks, Mr Hardy described the range of places where counterfeits can be introduced into the legitimate supply chain by intermediaries, and highlighted some of the voluntary cooperative efforts between brand owners and intermediaries to deal with the issues. He summarized several recommendations which will be part of a major new report from BASCAP on this topic, due to be released shortly.

“We are going to need broad public-private partnerships – and more cooperation and collaboration among brand owners and their intermediaries – to stop criminals from introducing their harmful, dangerous and illegal goods into the supply chain,” Mr Hardy said. “BASCAP applauds the UK Intellectual Property Organization, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, the European Union Observatory and the European Commission for organizing this Summit, and the delegates who affirmed their commitment to work in partnership to stop counterfeiting and piracy and other abuses of IP rights.”

Business leaders from BASCAP made significant contributions to the Summit discourse, including presentations from Hewlett Packard, Lacoste, Microsoft and Unilever on issues ranging from limiting piracy on the Internet and cracking down on border control to improving consumer awareness.

An official Summit Communiqué commits the host organizations and others at the conference to work together to provide more effective protection of intellectual property rights, and calls for a united effort from government, business and enforcement agencies to address international IP abuses.

Business leaders from BASCAP applauded the Summit Communiqué as an important confirmation of the need for cross-border cooperation and international collaboration to deal with the global growth of counterfeiting and piracy. Mr Polman told delegates: “You will have the full support of Unilever and BASCAP, as we work collectively to protect IP rights here in Europe and around the world.”

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