Borders

I sometimes have difficulties digesting blogs about intellectual property rights. Sometimes they’re completely brilliant, like Afro-IP writing about the anti-counterfeiting squad of Kenya seizing pencils for a value of $300’000. Or when IP-Tango writes about trademarks being limited to the market within which they are protected. I enjoy reading Amlan Mohantys posts on the SpicyIP India blog, like this one, on the importance of public participation in legislative debates. That touches on the subject I wrote about yesterday.

Today, however, a post on IPKitten concerns me a bit. It’s about continued negotiations on border measures at the World Customs Organisation.

Some people will almost certainly remember the negotiations on SECURE Standards in WCO that collapsed in 2008. The reason was that negotiations for stricter border controls to decrease intellectual property rights infringement were discovered by developing nations who subsequently mobilised IPR experts in the organisation and created pressure for continued investigation on whether the standards were really secure, or actually necessary.

The consequence of the WCO slowing down turned into the ACTA-initiative. By collecting only a small number of like-minded nations IPR-dependent economies hoped to achieve… What?

Doctors Without Border have a campaign for access to medicines since many years. As opposed to popular belief this has very little to do with patent rights. Even though pharmaceutical patents cause quite a lot of problems on the inner European market, the medicine seizures at EU border largely rely on extraterritorial application of trademark law.

The extension of European trademark law to apply for goods that haven’t entered the market makes our customs authorities assist companies with protecting their intellectual property rights on foreign markets where they might not even have registered rights. For being a region strongly opposed to expansion, the EU certianly has a very liberal view of extraterritorial application of its legislation. It’s not unreasonable to ask if it’s a valuable investment when the need for medicines, particularly in developing economies, is so large.

A few weeks ago I also noticed a case concerning Nokia mobile phones. Nokia is claiming in a British court that mobilephones marked Nokia, produced in China and destined for Colombia, ought to be seized and destroyed by UK customs authorities. When the country of destination is already known, you would wonder why Nokia doesn’t simply protect its trademark in that country, instead of at the European border. In the event they didn’t file for trademark protection in that country, that’s really their fault. More than half of all Colombians are poor and I see it as a big problem that European customs authorities shall invest time and money into take away a means of relatively cheap communications technology simply because of Nokia not being bothered to get intellectual property rights protection in the end market.

In a brighter moment, I discovered that Mexico has turned into a market of pirated blu-ray and 3D DVDs! They’re now sold on streets to Mexicans for affordable prices. While it might annoy J.K. Rowling, cracking down on Mexicos pirates and street salesmen would actually strike quite hard against the thousands of Mexicans that are making a living off of selling DVDs on the streets. Considering the size of the seizures of pirate copied goods in Mexico I guess it’s also not unjustified to fear a huge drop in accessibility of culture and certain goods to a large part of the Mexican population.

It appears anyway as if the negotiations for IPR-related border controls have been rebooted at WCO. Multilateral fora like World Trade Organisation and WCO are more attractive for developing economies to negotiate within, since they have more control over the content and how the agreements end up being interpreted. But since I already see an extremely liberal European view of border controls applying outside Europe, I must say this concerns me a bit.

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  1. december 15, 2010 kl. 18:24

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