The 2017 International Law Enforcement IP Crime Conference was held at the United Nations Headquarters, New York on 28-29 August. I was fortunate to be able to attend this conference on behalf of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and to be part of a panel on delivery and policy making. But more on that later.
I didn't attend the previous 10 gatherings so cannot compare. However, a few things stood out for me:
- the setting - UN Headquarters, New York. Not just because of the beautiful scenery across the Hudson River. But, the fact that representatives from many countries around the world had once again gathered to address a common problem
- the level of commitment among participants from a range of organisations; customs, police, private sector, universities, trade and umbrella bodies. All working together to find workable solutions
But the most important of these was the variety of issues covered including; e-commerce, safety, consumer trust, counterfeits, illicit medicines, organised crime, etc. What this showed is that IP Crime isn't something that only affects a few people; those who want to watch the latest movie or listen to the latest Ed Sheeran song for free. Or even those who buy fake handbags and sporting goods. It is about the legitimate supply chains being infiltrated by dangerous counterfeit parts and the threat this poses to human life. This is about parts that go into aircraft and cars, and it is about dangerous chemicals going into medicines. If we excuse those producing the counterfeit bags and clothes, we also excuse those putting our lives at risk. That is unacceptable.
Finding the balance
I had the opportunity to talk about some of the challenges this poses for policy making. As policy makers, we are expected to find a balance between ensuring consumer access to goods and services while ensuring that the creators are properly rewarded. Not always easy, particularly as we lack access to some crucial evidence, which was my second point. Finally, if we want to achieve that balance and get that evidence, we need to work more in partnership with rights holders, legitimate manufacturers, logistics companies, advertisers, etc. Not just in the UK, but internationally. Conferences like this one help in building these relationships.
Asked if we could ever enforce our way out of this problem, my answer was no. Enforcement on its own will not deal with the problem entirely. We need to do more to raise awareness and to change the behaviour of consumers so that we remove the demand for such goods. We need to take away the funding from criminals and ensure that the routes to them acquiring more are cut off. And we need to become more tech savvy and innovative than the criminals so that we can anticipate their next move. A lot to ask I know, but with wide collaboration and more evidence we can make a huge difference.
This conference gives me hope. Onwards and upwards to Dubai for the 2018 conference.
To find out more about how the IPO are tackling IP crime, visit our recently updated IP crime and enforcement pages.