For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Fordham Report 2014: IP Industries’ Contribution to Economic Performance and the Public’s Perception Thereof

"IP Industries’ Contribution to Economic Performance and the Public’s Perception Thereof" was the grand title of a session at this year's Fordham IP Conference that was moderated by Coenraad Visser (University of South Africa, Pretoria). First to speak was Katfriend Paul Maier (Director, The European Observatory on Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights, Alicante), who reviewed two recently-prepared EU studies on the economic importance of IP and consumer perception. Paul took us through the statistics recorded in these studies, warning us that they represented a mere snapshot of how things currently look -- they say nothing, in terms of causation, as to whether prosperity, employment or anything else is caused by IP rights or only accompanies their presence or use. The two studies to which Paul made reference, printed copies of which were provided in the black bag packs of all conference registrants, are
  • Intellectual property rights intensive industries: contribution to economic performance and employment in the European Union (Industry-Level Analysis Report, September 2013: A joint project between the European Patent Office and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market) here
  • European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behaviour, here
Next to speak was another Katfriend, Shlomo Cohen (Dr. Shlomo Cohen & Co., Bnei Brak), whose talk was entitled "The anti-IP Campaign".   For the first time in 400 years, Shlomo explained, IP is subject to serious and wide-ranging challenges focusing on its basic premises and underlying principles. Is this a normal development typical of this age, or have IP owners, or some of them, earned it?  Shlomo reviewed the phenomenon of hostility to IP rights, particularly where they have been allowed to extend to areas that they were never intended to cover and where they have been insensitively handled -- such as patents for life-saving drugs in developing countries. The cry is often heard: "IP should be free to the needy". Why IP, asked Shlomo, and not other properties or commodities?

People say that copyright works only for the big guys, that it interrupts the normal operation of the internet. Meanwhile there are calls for revision of the laws that restrictively interpret fair use of copyright work. While IP owners don't seek to do harm, but only want to protect their own property. However, that does not negate a need to look critically at the way they do so.

Panellists Richard Vary (Nokia), Susan Scafidi (Fordham University School of Law) and Elizabeth Weiswasser (Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, New York) then had their say. Susan asked whether young and rebellious consumers didn't change their perceptions once they grew up, and Richard observed that the courts take a different approach towards the protection and infringement of IP rights, depending on the circumstances of their importance -- but he wondered whether this was quite right.  However, he reminded us that there's no point in driving technologies of standardisation if you won't get any return on your investment: you'll just leave it for someone else.  From the floor, Irene Calboli, this Kat and various other people felt that there was room for more dialogue -- but that's another matter!

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