Summit on Thursday, UK IP minister Lord Younger celebrated its
achievements saying: "We have created a springboard for change,
a platform which sends a clear message to infringers." He noted
that there is a shared ambition to be smarter and more
effective, collaborate more, use technology better and educate
consumers more effectively.
Participants, who all spoke eloquently and wisely, included
government ministers and EU officials, police and Customs
representatives, businesspeople and leaders of industry
associations (see reports on the speeches by
Paul Polman and
Simona Vicari). The Summit apparently reached some
9.5 million people on Twitter and led to articles being
Evening Standard and
Pretty impressive, in many ways; and it was encouraging to
hear about much of the work that is going on not just to deal
with IP infringement but also to prevent it. And yet I suspect
I was not the only person who left the Summit thinking that
there was rather too much nodding in agreement between those
present, while outside on people’s laptops, in
street markets and holiday resorts life – including IP
infringement – continues as normal.
Some of the speakers recognised this. Younger himself spoke
of the need to reach out to consumers; Mike Weatherley MP (the
prime minister’s adviser on IP) said he wants to
bring together rights owners and users in the coming year; and
Karen Bradley MP (the UK minister dealing with organised crime)
talked about the role mothers can play in making sure their
children observe IP rights (something which, perhaps, she
should take up with the popular website Mumsnet).
Above all, OHIM
President Antonio Campinos talked passionately about the risk
of "losing the battle" given the "alarming" levels of
infringement among 16-to-24 year olds, and the need to "change
the narrative" when communicating with them.
So what has to happen next? I think three things stand
First, future events like these must find ways to bridge the
gap between consumers and rights owners. There may not be much
benefit to anyone in inviting coach-loads of students to
discuss what’s on their iPhones but why not
involve consumer groups, retailers associations and student
unions? I don’t think any of these were
represented last week.
Second, rights owners and enforcement agencies need to back
up their statements with proper, evidence-based arguments:
consumers are not as stupid as some people might like to think.
Repeating over and again that fake airline parts and
pharmaceuticals are dangerous is all very well, but many
consumers won’t connect that danger with
downloading the latest Lady Gaga single for free, or streaming
Game of Thrones from an unauthorised site. Similarly the
oft-repeated assertions that IP infringement funds other forms
of organised crime such as drug and people trafficking need to
be supported by evidence and examples.
Third, IP owners and officials must tackle the difficult
questions that come up when you talk about enforcing IP rights,
particularly online, for example concerning censorship and free
speech. Officials also have to be prepared to address areas
where policies appear inconsistent – questions about
the impact of plain packaging on counterfeit cigarettes were
conveniently ducked at the Summit.
The Summit was a great initiative, and something that Lord
Younger can take much credit for. He said he wants to build on
it with a year of IP enforcement. But he will realise that the
work from here onwards will only get harder.
Photos, top to bottom: Lord Younger; Paul Maier of OHIM;
and crime author Val McDermid, who all spoke at the