Europe, the United States and Japan need to have strong intellectual property laws to protect the creative economy which is under attack, according to the heads of leading business groups.
The following contribution was authored by business leaders Mark Esper, Philippe de Buck and Kenji Koumoto.
"Intellectual property (IP), which results from hard work, ideas and investment, is embodied in the products that we enjoy every day – from the latest cell phone and newest song or movie to a novel treatment for a chronic disease or the latest fashion.
Without question, the global economy and society owe much to the ideas that lead to the IP we have all come to rely on in our daily lives and for our livelihoods. Unfortunately, these innovative and creative segments of our economy are increasingly under attack from counterfeiters and pirates who seek to profit at the expense of others' ingenuity.
That's why strong IP laws and the vigorous enforcement of IP rights are essential for protecting inventors, artists, researchers and other entrepreneurs, as well as the consumers who use these items, the workers whose jobs depend on these industries, and the economies that are driven by their innovation and creativity.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, counterfeit and pirated goods in international trade grew steadily over the period 2000-2007, reaching up to $250 billion in 2007. These growing and increasingly sophisticated crimes – which are often the work of organised criminal networks – are doing great harm to sectors that employ millions of people around the world.
A recent study by the International Chamber of Commerce's Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy predicts that job losses due to piracy will reach as high as 1.2 million and €240 billion ($327 billion) in lost retail revenue by 2015 for the European Union.
In the United States, IP theft each year costs the auto industry, the music and film industries, the pharmaceutical sector and software manufacturers billions and has cost the US economy hundreds of thousands of jobs.
According to a study by the Japan Patent Office, 23% of Japanese companies are suffering from damage caused by counterfeiting and piracy, especially the machinery and the auto industries.
Of even greater significance, consumers are put at risk by fake electronics that catch fire or even explode, brake pads made from kitty litter, and counterfeit pharmaceuticals with toxic chemicals. In the EU, for example, seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods topped 178 million items in 2008, of which more than 20 million of these fakes posed health and safety risks.
At a time of economic uncertainty, we cannot afford to ignore these crimes, to allocate paltry resources to their enforcement, or to work alone in confronting them. Rather, we must come together to safeguard not only our intellectual property, but that of our trading partners' and the larger innovation ecosystem. In 2008, the United States, the European Union, Japan and many other trading partners began negotiations on a new plurilateral treaty – the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – to help fight rampant counterfeiting and piracy.
ACTA promises to enhance international cooperation among nearly 40 countries by establishing a meaningful and effective framework for the protection of IP rights consistent with current law. It will help ensure that like-minded trading partners address counterfeiting and piracy and its damaging effects on investment, innovation and jobs by raising the bar on enforcement, improving cooperation among partners, harmonising how we confront IP theft, and setting a positive example for nations that aspire to have strong IP enforcement regimes.
We applaud the negotiating partners' recent release of the draft text, which significantly improves the transparency of this important process.
The business community in Europe, United States and Japan is committed to continue engaging in a constructive dialogue with governments and negotiators around the world to help ensure that a strong ACTA — which effectively combats counterfeiting and piracy while helping to facilitate legitimate commerce — is signed and implemented.
Key to our economic recovery and continued advancement is enhancing our cross-border enforcement cooperation, improving our enforcement tools and training, and taking other measures to stop counterfeiting and piracy.
To this end, concluding a robust ACTA this year would be a major step forward in our international efforts to protect innovators, workers and consumers all around the world and incentivise them to keep creating the products we have all come to enjoy and depend on."