At Chamber of Commerce Event, IP Attachés Take Hard-Line Position On Overseas IP Enforcement

by on December 26, 2008 · 35 comments

My piece about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce event last Friday on U.S. intellectual property attachés giving a report, and taking a hard line, on the enforcement of U.S. intellectual property, overseas, is now live on ip-watch.org.

Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:

WASHINGTON, DC – Nations ranging from Brazil to Brunei to Russia are failing to properly protect the intellectual property assets of US companies and others, and international organisations are not doing enough to stop it, seven IP attachés to the US Foreign and Commercial Service lamented recently.

Meanwhile, an industry group issued detailed recommendations for the incoming Obama administration’s changes to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The problems in other nations extend from Brazil’s failure to issue patents for commercially significant inventions by US inventors, to an almost-complete piracy-based economy in Brunei, to an only-modest drop in the rate of Russian piracy from 65 percent to 58 percent.

The attachés, speaking at an event organised by the US Chamber of Commerce and its recently beefed-up Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC), blasted the record of familiar intellectual property trouble zones like Brunei, Thailand and Russia.

But the problems extend to the attitudes and omissions of major trading partners like Brazil, India and even well-developed European nations, said the attachés.

[more at http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/index.php?p=1387....]

  • http://zgp.org/~dmarti/ Don Marti

    How dare other countries fail to subsidize the industries in which we're net exporters to them! It's un-American!

  • http://zgp.org/~dmarti/ Don Marti

    (In other news, the Council of Countries that Require At Least One Year of Paid Maternity Leave condemned the US for its systematic failure to protect Maternal Property.)

  • MikeRT

    Why not just make a practice of seizing their goods and redistributing them Soviet-style to poor Americans when they come to port? Why should we have to honor their internationally-protected property rights when they won't respect our internationally-protected intellectual property rights?

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Ridiculous.

    The problem emanates from the USA, and the problem is too strong legal protections given to the so-called “rights holders” that have stifled innovation and lead to repression.

    Doubtful that Canada will pass their version of the DMCA. I wonder why that would be.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Amazing, here we have a website devoted to reducing government regulation and eliminating the incestuous relationship between the regulator and the regulated; and we actually have have a post that promotes both through corporatism! (In popular usage)

    What concerns me with the so called protection of intellectual property is how abstract and nebulous the concept is. Exactly what are we trying to protect, in concrete understandable terms?

    For example, I would not have a problem with stopping those who are producing counterfeit products. However, if someone is producing something that looks similar, in some subjective manner, to a product that a US company is producing, well that is the free market in action. Governments, should not act as corporate proxies to restrain free market competition.

  • MikeRT

    And what of economies where wholesale refusal to buy licenses of the products is normal? Where refusal to respect the most basic copyright protection, and giving away copies for the cost of media is the norm?

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Ah, but now we get into the issue of whether or not a companies assertion of copyright ownership is legitimate. Over the past several years we have seen companies aggrandizing their property rights by depriving the consumer of their property rights. This has been done through the passage of laws some would consider illegitimate since they were passed by Congress through corporate lobbying. Fair Use comes to mind as an example of corporations attempting to eliminate that consumer property right.

    If one is a pure free-market advocate who does not want government regulation; to be logically consistent, then one needs a business model that can survive these market flaws. Lets reverse the situation through a mental example, if the customer buys (licenses) a product and it does not function as advertised, then the customer should be able to have the government “arrest” the corporation for theft.

    Yes, I realize that this an absurd example, but it points out that if a corporation is entitled to government “protection” then the consumer should have equal entitled to “protection”. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) comes to mind as an example. How many contributors to this forum support the FTC? Very few I suspect.

  • MikeRT

    Ah, but now we get into the issue of whether or not a companies assertion of copyright ownership is legitimate. Over the past several years we have seen companies aggrandizing their property rights by depriving the consumer of their property rights. This has been done through the passage of laws some would consider illegitimate since they were passed by Congress through corporate lobbying. Fair Use comes to mind as an example of corporations attempting to eliminate that consumer property right.

    By that logic, the Union Army was justified in razing hundreds of millions of dollars of southern property because a small percentage of the southern property owners denied blacks their rights. The sort of copyright infringement we are talking about here affects far more than moneyed corporations.

    If one is a pure free-market advocate who does not want government regulation; to be logically consistent, then one needs a business model that can survive these market flaws.

    The same could be said about international piracy off the horn of Africa.

    Yes, I realize that this an absurd example, but it points out that if a corporation is entitled to government “protection” then the consumer should have equal entitled to “protection”. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) comes to mind as an example. How many contributors to this forum support the FTC? Very few I suspect.

    The reason this is absurd is that there are virtually no products of any level of complexity that don't have flaws in them that could be used against the manufacturer under this scenario. I recently got a parts recall notice for my Honda Civic. Based on your argument, I should be able to get Honda in serious trouble because my car has apparently not been as functional as advertised.

    Free-market economics is not based on the concept of having a legal vacuum in place, but rather having a minimal set of good laws in place that protect buyer and seller. Intellectual property rights are a natural fit there, as there are millions of workers who need the protection of IP law every bit as much as there are those who need protection of physical property rights.

    Some physical property rights are probably too extreme for you, I'd wager. A good example would be the laws in LA and TX that allow people to use force to defend their property. Plenty of people get away with shooting people in defense of their property in those states. Some of the IP rights that have been created are that extreme, if not more so, but that doesn't mean that IP law has an illegitimate role in a free-market environment. Far from it.

  • http://www.au.org Alan

    Your example is a bit exagerated, but it in principle this is close to the mechanisms, such as retalitory tarriffs, that are actually used.

  • http://www.au.org Alan

    By that logic, the Union Army was justified in razing hundreds of millions of dollars of southern property ….

    I'd say they didn't do enough razing.

  • MikeRT

    Nor raping and pillaging. After all, what good is a punitive expedition if it is so arbitrarily limited on its ability to inflict collective punishment for the crimes of a minority?

  • MikeRT

    Not that I advocate either confiscation of their products or retaliatory tarriffs. However, I am not opposed to such punishments if they refuse to enforce basic copyright protections like stopping mass piracy on the streets.

  • http://www.au.org Alan

    Mike, the South was an evil slave-state. They got their ass kicked, and they deserved it. You need to get on the right side of history, boy.

  • MikeRT

    To paraphrase cardinal Richelieu, give me a century of history and I can find at least one good reason to condemn any society.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Mike, it would be good to know what you mean by a basic copyright that should be protected through enforcement.

    A basic problem with copyright that I have is that we have a moving target, the copyright of today is much more onerous than the copyright of yesterday. For example, we have region coding for DVD's and the music industry is claiming that if you transfer a file from a CD to a computer that that is piracy. These are all legitimate uses as far as I am concerned.

    To phrase my comment a bit differently, copyright holders are actively “stealing” the property rights that are normally acquired by a person when that person buys a product like a CD. Furthermore, the copyright holders are buying favorable legislation at the Congressional supermarket to extort even more property rights for themselves. Ironically, this creates a situation where we have ever more pirates because what was legal today will no longer legal tomorrow.

  • http://www.au.org Alan

    Sure, and don't forget the Nazis! Poor souls.

    The neo-confederate bull shit I find on libertarian sites never ceases to amaze me.

  • MikeRT

    Mike, it would be good to know what you mean by a basic copyright that should be protected through enforcement.

    Exclusive right to redistribute and sell the IP.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    What concerns me with the so called protection of intellectual property is how abstract and nebulous the concept is. Exactly what are we trying to protect, in concrete understandable terms?

    Steve a very good question. Richard Stallman (RMS) at the Free Software Foundation has an excellent essay on why we should not use the term “Intellectual Property” when in reality we usually mean a particular type of legal protection, either copyright, patents, or trademarks, which are all very different things:

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html

    I find it fascinating that the so-called “pro-freedom” libertarians at TLF almost all dislike RMS and the free software foundation. This shows that libertarians only stand for the freedom of corporations to oppress natural people. If a freedom gets in the way of corporate oppression, out it goes….

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Mike:

    Copyright is a limited time monopoly, and even in the United States, Congress is under no affirmative duty to grant copyright protection of any kind. If you read the Constitution, it is clear that Congress has the power to grant such limited time monopolies, but could decide not to.

    Thus, all patents and copyrights are dependent on government intervention in the market place. That intervention is entirely optional, and could be discontinued at any time.

    Those who advocate such draconian laws as the DMCA would do well to remember that–if they keep pushing for enormous fines and attack universities, they could just barely succeed in getting the copyrights rolled back to say 14 years maximum, the original length of copyright protection, if I remember correctly. What are they thinking, are they really that dense?

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Steve:

    You would probably like this site:

    http://againstmonopoly.org/

    Cheers! Keep up the good posts!

    E_F

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Alan:
    Great thread!
    E_F

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Mike:
    Even the constitution makes mention of the fact that such grants are for a limited time. What time do you think is appropriate??

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Thanks. I've been dropping comments there too. One of recent posts Attact of the Invisible Hand of the Free Market is particularly good.

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    Thanks very much E_F. I posted a response, but then I notice that I had not hit the “reply” button. Oh well. Against Monopoly is a good site that I also frequent.

  • MikeRT

    Enigma, you won't get any argument out of me that the terms are too long and most of the legislation passed since 1997 has been draconinan. If it were up to me, we'd restore the 14 year + additional 14 year extension that existed under our founding fathers. I think that that is a great compromise that balances the need to provide protections for innovators, with the public need to prevent them from becoming rent-seekers. On that note, don't even get me started on the state of patents :)

    The government can and should protect these basic rights because they benefit the public. Copyleftists don't tend to appreciate the fact that without copyright law, there would be nothing preventing open source software from being brutally exploited since things like the GPL would have no context in a copyright-free society to be enforceable.

    As I have said before, I think the solution is to harmonize our treatment of IP with our treatment of physical property. The norms for the latter should be applied to the former. Everything from taxation, to judicial limits on what is an acceptable term of use. Property is property, and IMO if a beat cop can't get you for stealing under state law for handing out free bootlegs that you don't own the rights to, it ain't property yet.

  • giani

    Here are some American inventions very detailed http://americaninvetors.blogspot.com!!

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