The Global InfoCons App, awarded for innovation and creativity on World Intellectual Property Day 2024

On April 26, 2024, InfoCons hosted an event at the Palace of Justice in Bucharest to mark World Intellectual Property Day. This event was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Romania, particularly the Department of Justice’s ICHIP program. High-ranking officials from the Romanian government, representatives from public authorities involved in IP rights protection, members of diplomatic missions, opinion leaders, and practitioners from the entire IP ecosystem in Romania attended.

A highlight of the event was the awarding the prize for the Global InfoCons App.

The Global InfoCons App, celebrated for its innovation and creativity, serves as a comprehensive tool for consumer protection. It integrates real-time alerts from the European Union, detailing both general product recalls and specific safety warnings. Importantly, more than half of these products are counterfeit products. A crucial feature is the description of the products and the highlighting of the counterfeited items. These products, often failing to meet safety standards, pose various risks to consumers. The application’s ability to quickly disseminate this information makes it a vital resource, helping users identify and avoid products that could be harmful, thus enhancing consumer safety and awareness in real-time. This feature underscores the application’s role in tackling counterfeit products and in promoting a safer consumer market overall.

This functionality positions the app as a frontline resource in the fight against counterfeit goods, offering consumers easy access to vital information. Furthermore, its accessibility is enhanced by availability in 33 languages, ensuring a wide reach. The app also features a compilation of global emergency contact numbers, making it a versatile resource for consumers worldwide.

On the occasion of World Intellectual Property Day (April 26), InfoCons supports consumers through the Global InfoCons App with quick alerts for non-food products at the European Union level and with a new functionality, the ability to search for counterfeit products in the Alerts section by entering a keyword in the dedicated search section!

InfoCons actively promotes innovation and creativity through its dedication to protecting intellectual property rights and combating counterfeiting and piracy. As a key player in these efforts, InfoCons not only educates the public on the significance of IP rights but also implements tools like the InfoCons App to directly engage consumers in recognizing and reporting infringements. This proactive approach helps foster an environment where creativity and innovation can thrive, safeguarded from the threats posed by illegal counterfeit and pirated goods.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (IP) encompasses products of human intellect, including inventions, artistic expressions, designs, and commercial identifiers like symbols and names. Legal protection of IP, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks, allows creators to gain recognition or financial rewards for their creations. The Intellectual Property system seeks to create a favorable environment for creativity and innovation by balancing the rights of inventors with the broader public interest.

Some types of Intellectual Property are:

  • Patents: Patents grant exclusive rights to inventors for their new inventions or processes, providing a fresh approach or technical solution to a problem. To obtain a patent, inventors must disclose technical details about their invention in a publicly available patent application.
  • Copyright: Copyright, also known as author’s rights, protects creators’ literary and artistic works. This includes a wide range of creations such as books, music, paintings, films, computer programs, and more.
  • Trademarks: Trademarks distinguish the goods or services of one company from those of others. They are safeguarded by intellectual property laws.
  • Industrial Designs: Industrial designs refer to the aesthetic features of a product, encompassing its shape, patterns, lines, or colors, in both two and three-dimensional forms.
  • Geographical Indications: Geographical indications (GI) are signs used on products that possess qualities or a reputation due to their specific geographical origin. These indications link a product to its place of origin and are protected to maintain authenticity.
  • Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are confidential information protected as intellectual property. To qualify, this information must have commercial value, be known to a limited group, and be actively kept secret by the rightful holder. Unauthorized acquisition or use of trade secrets is considered unfair and a violation of protection laws.

 

EUIPO and the European protection of Intellectual Property Rights

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) plays a crucial role in managing EU Trade Mark and Design rights, which hold jurisdiction across the European Union. These rights serve as complements to national intellectual property (IP) rights and are interconnected with international IP systems. Since 2012, EUIPO has overseen the EU Observatory on the Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights and the Orphan Works Database.

Annually, the Office handles an impressive volume, with over 150,000 trade mark and 90,000 design applications. Additionally, it actively promotes alignment of practices among IP offices across EU member states through collaboration facilitated by the European Union Intellectual Property Network. Utilizing user-friendly IP tools, this cooperation seeks to streamline processes and enhance efficiency.

The Observatory serves as a central hub, convening a diverse network of stakeholders to address issues related to IP infringement. Through initiatives such as studies, projects, and tools, the Office endeavors to raise awareness and combat infringement effectively. Moreover, EUIPO manages the Orphan Work Database, offering digital access to public information on various creative works, including literary, cinematographic, or audiovisual pieces, as well as pictures and photographs.

Recognizing the pivotal role of Intellectual Property (IP) rights in driving economic activity and growth, EUIPO is committed to ensuring accessibility and user-friendliness of its services. Maximizing the value of IP rights for both owners and the broader economy by fostering collaboration within and beyond the EU, the Office aims to generate synergies with its partners and stakeholders:

  • the users of Intellectual Property registration systems, particularly small & medium-sized businesses
  • EU & non-EU Intellectual Property offices
  • User associations
  • other international bodies in the Intellectual Property field.

What is WIPO?

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property (IP) services, policy, information, and cooperation. We are a self-funding agency of the United Nations, with 193 member states.

Their mission is to lead the development of a balanced and effective international IP system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all. Their mandate, governing bodies and procedures are set out in the WIPO Convention, which established WIPO in 1967.

WIPO aims to help governments, businesses and society realize the benefits of Intellectual Property (IP), by providing:

  • a policy forum to shape balanced international IP rules for a changing world;
  • global services to protect IP across borders and to resolve disputes;
  • technical infrastructure to connect IP systems and share knowledge;
  • cooperation and capacity-building programs to enable all countries to use IP for economic, social and cultural development;
  • a world reference source for IP information.

Anti-counterfeiting: meaning and risks

Counterfeiting poses a significant threat to both consumers and businesses worldwide, leading to economic losses, health risks, and damage to brand reputation. Anti-counterfeiting efforts aim to combat this pervasive problem by implementing measures to prevent the production, distribution, and sale of counterfeit goods. These measures include enhanced product authentication technologies, robust legal frameworks, and collaboration among stakeholders such as governments, law enforcement agencies, and industry associations.

The illegal trafficking of counterfeit goods presents a notable challenge to the principles of a free-market economy, impeding advancement and jeopardizing societal well-being. Globalization and the rise of the digital economy have empowered counterfeit producers to tap into worldwide markets, turning counterfeiting into a sprawling global enterprise. In 2019 alone, the estimated worth of international counterfeit trade reached a staggering USD 464 billion, comprising about 2.5 percent of global trade.

Anti-plagiarism and Intellectual Property Rights

Anti-plagiarism measures are crucial in safeguarding intellectual property rights and upholding academic integrity. Plagiarism, the act of presenting someone else’s work or ideas as one’s own without proper attribution, undermines the principles of originality and honesty. Anti-plagiarism efforts involve the use of technology, policies, and educational initiatives to detect and deter plagiarism in various contexts, including academia, publishing, and digital content creation.

At its core, anti-plagiarism intersects with intellectual property rights by protecting the ownership and integrity of creative works and scholarly contributions. Intellectual property rights, encompassing copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, grant creators and innovators exclusive rights to their creations, incentivizing innovation and creativity. Plagiarism infringes upon these rights by misappropriating others’ intellectual property without authorization, depriving creators of recognition and compensation for their work.

In today’s society, combating plagiarism is more pressing than ever due to the proliferation of digital content and the ease of access to information. With the vast amount of online resources available, including articles, research papers, and multimedia content, the temptation to plagiarize is heightened, particularly among students and content creators. Furthermore, the increasing reliance on digital platforms for dissemination and consumption of information amplifies the need for effective anti-plagiarism measures to maintain the integrity of intellectual discourse and ensure fair attribution of ideas.

Moreover, in academic and professional settings, the credibility and reputation of individuals and institutions are closely tied to their commitment to academic integrity and ethical conduct. Instances of plagiarism not only tarnish individual reputations but also undermine the credibility of educational institutions, publishers, and research organizations. As such, addressing plagiarism through proactive measures such as plagiarism detection software, educational campaigns on citation practices, and institutional policies on academic integrity is essential for upholding ethical standards and preserving the integrity of intellectual endeavors in contemporary society.

What are the repercussions of counterfeiting and piracy?

Some of the immediate consequences of counterfeiting and piracy are widely recognized and include the following:

  • Absence of royalties for rights holders: In the realm of copyright, a primary consequence is the denial of authors’ financial compensation for their creative works, as pirates typically evade paying royalties.
  • Impedes the development of local markets: Additionally, piracy and counterfeiting hinder the growth of domestic creative industries. For example, in regions like the West Indies with vibrant musical traditions, artists find it challenging to release their recordings to the market, as they are swiftly copied or pirated, resulting in no profits. Similarly, in Africa, artists lament the inability to compete in markets flooded with inexpensive illegal products.
  • Diminished tax revenue for governments: Typically, individuals involved in illicit counterfeiting and piracy activities evade taxation, leading to substantial losses for public authorities.
  • Links to other illegal endeavors: Moreover, there are connections between lucrative counterfeiting enterprises and organized crime. Organized crime syndicates are drawn to these activities due to the higher profits compared to, for instance, drug trafficking, coupled with minimal risks. Often, minimal or symbolic sanctions are imposed, which can be absorbed as operational costs.

The Global Strategy for Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy

Current anti-piracy strategies involve voluntary agreements among various stakeholders, including search engines, hosting services, advertising networks, payment processors, and content owners. These agreements target the infrastructure supporting large-scale piracy websites rather than individual users, aiming to disrupt the profitability of illegal content distribution. By deterring consumers from accessing illegitimate sites, these efforts seek to reduce piracy and increase legal sales.

Similarly, combating counterfeiting requires collaboration among governments, businesses, and consumers due to its global nature and widespread distribution channels. Establishing standardized practices to address counterfeit goods will enhance compliance across platforms and provide a unified approach to safeguard consumers from hazardous and unlawful products.

Several e-commerce marketplaces have started implementing best practices to combat counterfeiting. In January 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report proposing 11 measures for the U.S. government to counter the spread of counterfeit goods, along with 10 best practices for the private sector. Many of these align with recommendations outlined in the European Union’s “Memorandum of Understanding on the Sale of Counterfeit Goods on the Internet.” These shared best practices involve:

  • establishing and enforcing policies to protect intellectual property rights;
  • implementing notice and takedown procedures;
  • evaluating third-party sellers;
  • facilitating consumer reporting of counterfeits;
  • proactively addressing widespread counterfeits;
  • deterring repeat offenders;
  • providing remedies for consumers;
  • enhancing data sharing;
  • assisting law enforcement.

These common best practices have garnered support from various stakeholders in both the private and public sectors. They serve as a foundation for future discussions on anti-counterfeiting efforts at international level. Continued collaboration to establish global standards will pave the way for the adoption and development of similar policies, alongside voluntary best practices.

 

Sources:

  • https://datainnovation.org/2023/10/comments-to-the-uspto-on-future-strategies-for-anticounterfeiting-and-antipiracy/
  • https://economy-finance.ec.europa.eu/euro/anti-counterfeiting/anti-counterfeiting-measures_en
  • https://european-union.europa.eu/institutions-law-budget/institutions-and-bodies/search-all-eu-institutions-and-bodies/european-union-intellectual-property-office-euipo_en
  • https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2636746
  • https://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/enforcement/en/wipo_ace_16/wipo_ace_16_11.pdf
  • https://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2018/si/article_0008.html

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