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Intellectual Property Rights Awareness (IPR) Needs to Be Raised in Georgia

Published: July 11, 2011 | 2:43 pm
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IPR Expert: “People do not understand the function of intellectual property and how it contributes to economic development and business growth.”

The COMMERCIAL TIMES

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) has always been a highly disputed issue in different societies and countries. In Georgia,  the National Intellectual Property Center, Sakpatenti, is working on improvement of IPR in the country Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI) of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is cooperating with Sakpatenti regarding the value creation aspect of IPR. This is an important part of the EPI project that aims to improve national enterprise competitiveness.  The total value of the EPI Project is USD 40 million. Apart from raising competitiveness of private sector in the country, EPI works on building a competitive business environment, where the value creation side of IPR plays a crucial role. The COMMERCIAL TIMES interviewed Mr. Timothy Trainer EPI IPR Expert, who has  been invited to Georgia to introduce best practices and to increase IPR awareness in the country.

- As an IPR Expert under the USAID’s Economic Prosperity Initiative, what is the main message you have for Georgia?

- Prior to this visit, I was in Tbilisi in February for three weeks and at that time I was just meeting many people to evaluate the intellectual property environment. This time, I arrived on June 12 and I’ve been having meetings here to determine the level of IPR awareness and it’s a major challenge. There are lots of business people who don’t really understand intellectual property; there are general consumers who don’t understand intellectual property.

Probably, that means that there is not sufficient intellectual property awareness in the courts, by the police, by customs. I think people don’t really look at intellectual property as a system, but it is a system and it requires a lot of support from government, businesses and anybody who’s a creative person. People do not understand the function of intellectual property and how it contributes to economic development and business growth. All those things are the things we want to try to address.

- As a part of the cooperation, a series of seminars were held in June at several universities of Tbilisi and in regions. The objective of the seminars comprised raising public awareness in the intellectual property field.  What does IPR mean to people in Georgia?

- What we’ve done during this trip is a  series of workshops, sessions and seminars with business schools, university students and it’s really an effort to raise an awareness of what is intellectual property about, why intellectual property is important and how it contributes to the potential generation of revenue. These are basic elements of intellectual property. The other part of this is trying to make people understand every time I use the term intellectual property rights I’m talking about very specific types of laws to protect different business assets. People need to understand that when you create something it has the potential to be protected by a patent, trademark, copyright or an industrial design.

What I want people to understand is that they have a set of laws and the set of laws allows them as a creator to choose how they want to protect their assets and why this is important. You create an asset and then you create a layer of protection because it gives you protection against people who might wish to violate rights you have established. So, you use those rights to generate revenue in the market place. Each piece of this is linked together.

- You mentioned that the awareness about IPR is low in Georgia. Are there any specific violations, or law inefficiencies regarding IPR in the country?

- The problems with IPR violations are of various kinds.  They can be internet violations because you download or upload music without authorization or you’re making T-Shirts and putting Nike without permission, it can be many different things and all of these are problems.

What happens is that if I am a business person and I invest thousands of dollars to go  into  business to make remote controls and I create technology to go inside, then I get a patent and I use this mark as a trade mark in the market place. When I have the legal rights that are given to me by Sakpatenti, I need to be able to go to customs or the police or the prosecutors and go to court and make sure they understand that they should protect my investment in the market place. You have to link everything from the point of creation of product to the point of protecting it through the customs, through the police, through the court. That whole system has to be addressed.

The existing law is fine. It’s not about the law, it’s about enforcement and how people respect the law. Government entities should also be responsible for supporting the business sector, understanding how those laws are supposed to be used to protect the businesses. That’s why it’s really important that customs officers, police officers, prosecutors and judges do understand the rights businesses have and what they are entitled to. That’s the real question and not whether the law is bad or good. The question is whether the people who are part of the system understand what IPR is about.

- Based on the Law and Regulations, the National Intellectual Property Center is authorized to determine the state policy in the intellectual property protection, Sakpatenti has worked out an action plan for 2011-2013 for combating piracy serving to contribute to the effective protection of copyright. Are you aware of this action plan and what you approve and disapprove about it?

- I’ve read this action plan but it was not the immediate concern of this trip. Usually, action plans are to modernize internal systems of an organizationDeveloped countries have implemented e-filing, they’re using internet to make the job easier for people to file their applications. Sakpatenti is looking for modernizing its systems. That becomes a big part of the strategy. Sakpatenti is the kind of agency in the government that is there to serve the public. In other words, they’re there for business people, creators of products and services so that they all recognize the legal rights given by Sakpatenti and be active in the market place.

- What’s your opinion on reforming the tariff policy, taking into account the existing reality, lowering tariff rates for the use of copyright for broadcasting organizations and publishers?

- From my perspective, royalties between parties is something that is done by contracts. I’m not sure how the system works here and usually,  collection rates vary according to agreements. One of the big problems here is the effectiveness of the collection society for authors. The rate can be high but if you’re not able to collect them, it does not mean anything.

- What are the terms of this joint project and how do you expect it to further develop?

- From my perspective, right now there is a tentative plan that I would probably come back. One of the things I would like to see is that Sakpatenti on their own do more outreach programs to raise awareness because they’re here, they’re part of the government and they’re the ones who should be interacting with business sector, physically going out and interacting with business community. They are willing and capable to carry out these programs successfully. Sakpatenti should also be helping the enforcement authorities whether it’s police, prosecutors or judges to have a better understanding of what intellectual property is and why it is important.

It’s hard to educate everybody. So, you have to find some mechanism by which you reach more people and that just takes a little bit of creative thinking.”Lunch and Learn” method works perfectly, as you educate business people about the importance of intellectual property, businesses could start doing some educational sessions for their employees and that’s the way to spread the knowledge about intellectual property. You can be a teacher, a journalist, a doctor, a lawyer during the day but after work you’re a consumer. You can reach the general public not when they are consumers but when they are at work. It has to be commitment by the people who are in business, willing to educate their work force.

- How supportive is the Georgian government?

- I can’t speak about the government’s level of support on IPR enforcement. We have not had the chance yet to engage them in a detailed, in-depth way. I met with customs office representatives who have the data base, but  just because you have a data base does not mean you’re providing  effective protection and enforcement. Then the question is raised how much training occurs in the border area to actually understand what intellectual property is, how to use the  data base, how to look at things and determine the possibilities that someone is violating a copy right or a trade mark. There are lots of things that have to be done. It’s not a short, easy process, it’s a long-term project.

- What’s the situation like in Caucasus in respect to IPR? How advanced is the regional market and what’s Georgia’s position?

-  In general, the whole region needs massive assistance and massive capacity building. I don’t think there’s an exception that somebody’s ahead of someone else. The countries in this region are in the same situation, all of them need higher level of awareness, more enforcement in intellectual property rights. So, it’s not significantly different here than anywhere in the region.

 

Timothy Trainer established the Global IP Strategy Center, P.C., in 2005. He’s been working on intellectual property rights enforcement and policy issues for over 20 years. Trainer ‘s IPR experience includes government service with the U.S. Customs Service (now CBP), Intellectual Property Rights Branch, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Office of Legislative and International Affairs.

Trainer, a graduate of Cleveland-Marshal College of Law, has also represented The United States before the World Intellectual Property Organization and has been an advisor to  the Department of Commerce.

 

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