World Intellectual Property Organization

Letters and Comment

August 2006

WIPO Magazine welcomes letters commenting on issues raised in Magazine articles, or on other developments in the field of intellectual property.

Letters should be marked "for publication in the WIPO Magazine" and addressed to The Editor at WipoMagazine@wipo.int or to the postal/fax address on the back cover of the Magazine. Please also include your postal address. We regret that it is not possible to publish all the letters we receive. The editor reserves the right to edit, shorten, or publish extracts from letters. The author will be consulted if substantial editing is required.

In praise of the Da Vinci Code judgement…

Dr. Suthersanen’s article, Copyright in the Courts:The Da Vinci Code (June 2006), sets forth in a clear and concise manner the basic copyright law principles that thankfully have not been changed.

As an IP attorney, I became immediately concerned (albeit without possessing the details of the case) that no motion was adjudicated dismissing the case as frivolous or unfounded, and that the courts took the case seriously enough to accept to hear it. From the few facts that were trickling out from the media feeding frenzy I feared that copyright law may be turned on its head. I was greatly relieved when this turned out not to be the case.

I admit I was astonished at the media coverage generated by this case. But isn’t it interesting that both books share a common publisher? That the authors of both The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code recently launched new books? Not to mention the Hollywood adaptation. This whole "fiasco" was a publicist’s dream. The lawyers’ fees for both sides combined are probably much less than any advertisement campaign would have cost them for equal media exposure!

…and of WIPO’s "star" dispute resolution service

Separately, your April 2006 article, Resolving IP Disputes Through Mediation and Arbitration, spotlights one of WIPO’s star services. The article summarized nicely - and in language I can show my clients - what services are available to help resolve domain name disputes. I find this sort of article useful to my practice of law.

From Nathaly J. Vermette, LL.B., LL.M., Attorney and Trade-mark Agent, Montreal, Canada

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Zambian journalists against piracy

I read with interest the article on counterfeit (Recent Challenges for Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, April 2006) and wish to share some of my country’s own experience - and a new initiative to involve journalists.

Zambia has not been spared the scourge of piracy and counterfeit. Zambian musicians have suffered the most. One only needs to walk the streets and market places of Lusaka to see how business in pirated music is booming. Pirated audio and video tapes, DVDs, and CDs are offloaded onto the market within minutes of being released. According to Ministry of Information statistics, the Zambian government loses revenue amounting to US$ 4.3 million every year due to piracy. [Many pirated materials are imported, while a substantial quantity is reproduced locally in the city’s back streets using increasingly sophisticated methods.

An anti-piracy squad comprising state police, Zambia Revenue Authority, local council authority and the immigration department was formed in 2004 to crack down on the scourge, and has confiscated materials worth US $430,000. The customs unit have also confiscated pirated materials at points of entry.

Now, on World Intellectual Property Day Zambia has announced a new initiative, Journalists against Piracy in Zambia. The first of its kind in the African continent, the idea arose from the Copyright Office’s realization that it could not work in isolation in its efforts to inform the public. Participating journalists from the electronic and print media have received training to enable them to spearhead the dissemination of information to the public on piracy and counterfeit and on their consequences for the economy. The journalists will write investigative stories, exposing piracy and raising public awareness about the dangers of supporting it. They will also be expected to play an advocacy role, fighting for policies to better protect IP rights.

From Janet Muyawala-Ilunga, Journalist, Sunday Times of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia

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Help us to reap what we sow - a musician’s perspective

Like Amadou (Authors, Composers, Artists: Amadou and Mariam, January-February 2006), I am a musician trying to live from my music. I personally know IP to be an asset, something that one can physically own, like a trouser, and I know that one is supposed to be able to make a living out of it. But here in Kenya, the public see it as only there for entertainment, and so we have massive IP infringement carried out as if it was legal.

We hope that with your support, and with the support of other relevant organizations and offices of our government, we as musicians and intellectual property owners will be able to reap where we have sowed.

From Edward Rowa Olang, Musician, Nairobi, Kenya

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Access to essential medicines

Are patents the problem or the solution?

Your article on avian flu drugs (Avian Flu Drugs: Patent Questions, April 2006) illustrated some questions in the debate about patents, access to medicines and TRIPS. It should not be forgotten that access to medicines is a means to an end, and not and end in itself. The end is health for all. Important factors that impact on achieving this end include a country’s financial means to purchase medicines, adequate distribution, and the ability to supply. In this last regard, the WTO decision on the implementation of Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health plays an important part. The decision clarifies in particular how to alleviate the problems of member countries with insufficient pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities, i.e. by granting compulsory licenses, or through technology transfer and capacity building in the pharmaceutical sector.

Utilization of the IP system and TRIPS flexibilities is essential in facilitating access to pharmaceutical products to address public health problems. But equally important is the infrastructure necessary to distribute essential medicines and administer health needs. Technical assistance needs to be channeled towards establishing efficient distribution systems. And where production is in the hands of private companies, regulation should be implemented requiring those industries to distribute to the entire populace or contribute towards distribution. Pricing also needs to be addressed, either by regulation or within the terms of the licenses, in order for the importing countries to ensure the lowest possible price.

National legislation – in both importing and exporting countries - is of critical importance to ensure that the benefits of the system can be obtained. Technical assistance given to developing countries with regard to their IP legislation must take all the TRIPS flexibilities into consideration. Finally utilization of the system must aim to achieve the delicate balance between the rights of the patent holders, who need returns from their investment in order to develop new and better medicines, and the needs of the Member States seeking to develop sufficient pharmaceutical manufacturing capacities to meet public health problems.

From Sonja H. A. Francis, Legal/Trade Consultant, St. George’s, Grenada W. I.

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