latter, INTA chief executive Etienne Sanz de Acedo argued
powerfully that IP professionals need to be better at engaging
with non-professionals. At the Summit, speakers including OHIM
President António Campinos stressed the need to "
change the narrative" when communicating with young
Campinos stressed that this is about moving on the substance
of the debate, and in particular highlighting the social and
economic value of IP rights – for example, asking
kids: how do you expect to earn money from your
innovation/creativity if there is no protection? Often, IP is
seen by young people as purely a negative instrument.
That’s fair enough. But I think it is also
important to think about changing the language used.
By that I mean partly cutting out jargon. Lawyers, like
other professionals, have their own terms which often exclude
those not privileged to be part of the community. That can be
alienating for many people.
But it also means we should think carefully before using
terms such as "IP crime", "IP theft" or even "enforcement"
(which can sound needlessly aggressive to some ears). Such
terms often crop up in policy debates, but it’s
not helpful to equate all infringement with crime or theft, as
Professor Stuart Green eloquently argued in the New York
Times in 2012.
In this respect,
I was particularly interested to hear BSA president and CEO
Victoria Espinel say at the IP Summit that the
BSA’s annual Global Piracy Study
has been renamed Global Software
Survey. It refers to "unlicensed" rather than "pirated"
software, which is a welcome move – though
I’m not sure whether it was influenced by concern
over the inappropriateness of the word "piracy" or the fact
that the "pirates" including the Pirate Party and the Pirate
Bay have in recent years tried to claim it as a badge.
The challenge of course is finding language that is both
accurate and accessible, something that has been highlighted
recently in the debate about patent
trolls/NPEs/PAEs/PHCs. (For the record, we prefer to use
"patent troll" at least until a better term becomes current:
that is partly because most people seem to understand what it
means, and partly because we think any name that has to be
abbreviated to three letters is inherently alienating.)
But it is a challenge that the IP community needs to take
up. IP professionals often tell me that intellectual property
is complex. As a non-professional, I agree that the nuances of
the law and procedures have become arcane in many
respects. But I would argue that the basic principles of IP
protection are simple enough to be understood by most
The difficult bit is the communication. Let’s
not make it harder than it already is.
(Pictured: crime author Val McDermid speaking at the IP Summit;
the ECTA conference)