EDITORIAL – Intellectual property protection
A?MOST REFRESHING INITIATIVE. This is perhaps the best way to describe the Intellectual Property (IP) Unit, which was launched last Tuesday at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
It can only contribute to a broader knowledge base and economic benefit for the wider society.
Intellectual property rights include copyright, moral rights, performers’ rights, trademarks, patents and designs, and rights to prevent “passing off” and breach of confidence. As such, IP laws protect much more than tangible assets – also entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
We have tended over the years to stress the importance of trademarks and patents and in more recent times, particularly with the explosion of the internet, to increase our focus on copyright. So, we have witnessed an emphasis being placed on fighting piracy and counterfeiting in order to reduce violation of IP rights in a wide range of products and industries.
The Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Rights Office (CAIPO) and the licensing agencies, COSCAP and more recently the Barbados Copyright Agency (B-Copy), have sought to draw some attention to the need for protection of these intangible assets. But a well coordinated and persistent intellectual property rights education and enforcement strategy is needed to help not only to protect Barbados and indeed the wider English-speaking Caribbean from pirated goods but also to ensure that our economies benefit from these rights.
The World Trade Organization agreement on the trade-related aspects of IP (TRIPs) has established standards on intellectual property with which we must comply. The new IP Unit must therefore play a critical role in educating Caribbean people on the subject, not only attorneys-at-law but also accountants, entrepreneurs, scientists, innovators and all business people.
Barbadians must recognize that in seeking to protect intellectual assets there will be many hurdles, including hostility, which often derives from a lack of knowledge; antagonism towards the licensing agencies; and resistance, including from governments and corporations, to following the laws.
It was therefore refreshing to hear the head of the new IP unit, Dr Eddy Ventose, say of the UWI: “We have a vested interest in ensuring that we first and foremost abide by the intellectual property law.” What is worrisome is his call for an amendment to the Copyright Act to provide greater protection for educational institutions – although the Barbados Copyright Act is supposed to be in full compliance with international standards. His call comes against the background of a dispute between the Cave Hill Campus and B-Copy over copyright infringement.
Perhaps both CAIPO and the World Intellectual Property Organization should weigh in on this dispute. But, regardless of the different expert opinions, this dispute can be settled by negotiation between the two sides. The theft of IP will only continue to impact negatively on our creative community.
However, in legislating whilst we need to be cognizant of the local environment and our specific developmental needs, we also need to be careful in maintaining balance and fair use. Dr Ventose’s suggestions can only create confusion if applied. Why amend the law to cater to a specific situation? Who next will seek special relief?
The law simply cannot be applied in such a manner.