He acknowledged counterfeiting was a global issue that did not recognise borders, and noted it occurred through the unauthorised use of registered trademarks, and where the producers of counterfeit goods falsely claim their product was the same make and quality as the genuine one manufactured by the trademark owner. The International Business Minister, however, refuted this, noting that it was a direct attack on the trademark owner, and also on the integrity of his brand and goodwill of his business.
Offering solutions, he said: “We must in Barbados create a stronger environment in which the intellectual property owner reaps the equitable benefits that should accrue to him/her (which is the rewards of his/her business investment) and where the users are protected from dangerous imposter goods. We must develop a strategy which must include outreach, training and messaging.”
He stated too that the battle against counterfeit goods must reach consumers so as to drive down demand and raise awareness, but when people were very price sensitive this presented a challenge to get them to understand and appreciate the value of buying the real good, as opposed to a counterfeit good.
Nonetheless, the Minister stressed it called for stronger training programmes with enforcement capabilities, including border officials, prosecutors, and judiciary, and the building of a stronger intellectual property enforcement knowledge community. Greater respect for intellectual property, while fostering a wider understanding of and appreciation of intellectual property assets, was also recommended.
It was also pointed out that the state should build stronger cooperation between authorities at all levels in the fight against intellectual property infringement, and that such activity should not be allowed to undermine and erode the fortunes of legitimate businesses.
“The fight against intellectual property infringement needs to be a joint effort involving all of the players, both public and private sector, make use of all possible tools and should not be restricted just to law enforcement. It is also possible to fight intellectual property infringement through enhanced administrative cooperation and industry-led actions against Intellectual Property infringement can also be impactful,” Mr. Inniss declared.
Participants, comprising members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, Customs Department, the Fair Trading Commission and CAIPO, were reminded that most intellectual property rights infringements were criminal and that counterfeit goods were as illegal as any other prohibited good.
They also heard that intellectual property rights violations were not victimless crimes and at the international level, infringing goods traditionally were limited to luxury goods, such as counterfeit handbags and watches, but with the advent of new technologies, combined with high profits, counterfeits have become increasingly more sophisticated and prevalent.
“Today, counterfeiting impacts most industries from luxury to consumer goods, affecting products as diverse as automotive replacement parts, electrical appliances, toys, medicines, health care products and electronics,” Minister Inniss said.