The recent Trading Ideas Symposium in Sydney brought together leading
figures in Intellectual Property (IP) policy development from around the
world. Tackling issues such as IP piracy and counterfeiting and
dealing with the global patent backlogs were among the main topics
discussed at a range of practical, interactive sessions and a roundtable
Organized by IP Australia and the Australian
Attorney-General's Department, the Trading Ideas Symposium provided a
forum for robust debate between speakers from the Asia-Pacific and other
important global IP centers.
Dealing with IP piracy and
counterfeiting in the APEC region was a topic of broad discussion with
proactive education, business planning and consumer understanding as
essential ingredients to overcoming the problem.
of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States'
Patent and Trademark Office, Mr. Jon Dudas, highlighted the harm that
piracy and counterfeiting are inflicting upon the future of innovation.
issue comes down to one question, whether or not people are serious
about long term innovation or short-term gain," Mr. Dudas said to the
panel and around 500 delegates at the symposium.
"Counterfeiting and piracy is very much a short term gain, you may make money by stealing but in the long term it won't work."
were sentiments supported by Time Warner's Asia-Pacific Senior Vice
President for International Relations and Public Policy, Mr. Hugh
"I hope the average consumer cares about IP and that
they show respect for the products that they wish to consume," Mr.
"Because if consumers who buy DVDs and other
products don't care about IP, it is they who will lose out in the long
run as that cannot continue forever."
As a company at the
forefront of dealing with the threat piracy poses to the bottom line,
Mr. Stephens provided an overview of some of the business strategies
employed by Time Warner to deal with piracy. "A big challenge is
distribution," he said in relation to operations in some markets in
"I think we have signed up all of the reputable and
legitimate distributors. Now the other challenge is to get into that
next chain of distribution, the 'Mom and Pop' stores, where inevitably
there will be some legitimate products and some pirated products sold.
Stephens said the ultimate goal was to convert these businesses so that
they sell legal merchandise because, he said at the end of the day they
perform an important function in the local market.
"Our aim is not to put them out of business but to convert them to sell legitimate products."
strategies for dealing with counterfeiting and piracy were proposed,
including initiatives aimed at assisting law enforcement officials to
deal with the issue at a local level. However, speakers acknowledged
that much remains to be done and that governments and the private sector
would need to work closely together to raise awareness of the public
about the impacts of buying counterfeit or pirated goods.
large and ever-growing global backlog of patent applications was another
issue that led to debate. The issue became particularly interesting
when Andrew Christie from the Intellectual Property Research Institute
of Australia (IPRIA) made a suggestion that has been floated in the past
that is for the broader adoption of an existing Australian system as an
option to reduce backlogs at the global level.
suggested that as only a very small number of patents are ever
commercially successful, the backlog could be reduced through the
adoption of the Australian system used for utility models or second-tier
patents. Under this system, patent applications are not examined
unless an applicant wishes to enforce the patent or if third parties
believe that the patent is not valid.
The President-Elect of the
European Patent Office, Ms. Alison Brimelow, responded that the idea had
"intrinsic rationality" in that it is a model that people are already
using, though there would be those who might hold strong reservations.
"There are as many opponents to the idea as there are proponents and
anxieties about uncertainties in the marketplace that come to the fore,"
she said to the roundtable discussion on the final day of the
"Whether we will go that way in Europe I am not clear.
While I can see some of the disadvantages, I would be most reluctant
to react with alarm when there might be evidence around that this is a
rational way forward, so I am agnostic at the moment and open to
United States Undersecretary Jon Dudas expressed
interest in further exploring the potential of the suggestion that was
already being discussed in the United States. "I would say it is
absolutely an option, but an option with costs, both substantive and
political," he said. "It is something that we are discussing as part of
our strategic planning."
However the Deputy Director General,
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Francis Gurry also
raised the point that such a system might draw into question the value
of an asset if the relevant patent has not been fully examined.
does it do to the financial value of your asset if you haven't had an
objective assessment by an independent authority that it is valid," Dr.
Gurry said posing the question to the panel. "How does that affect a
company's capacity to go forward, particularly a start-up with that
In response Ms. Brimelow, raised the question of what the
backlogs also mean for the value of assets waiting for examination. "We
are looking at the world and we've got queues of patents waiting for
anybody just to open the dossier," she said. "What does that do to the
value of an asset?
Ms. Brimelow urged stakeholders in the IP
environment not to lose sight that making applicants wait for a great
number of months is not doing anything to enhance the value of assets.
"What this does do is enable a lot of people to play what I call rich
man's poker," she said and presented a scenario; "My stack of 500
pending is probably as good as your stack of 600 pending, so shall we do
Importantly, the debate on patent backlogs indicated a
strong sense that economies in the APEC region are willing to explore
work-sharing options to reduce waiting times for patent grant, which
will ultimately lead to reductions in transaction costs for businesses
trading in the region.
The three day symposium was attended by
policy planners, business executives, inventors and attorneys from
around the APEC region and was formally opened by Australia's
Attorney-General, the Honorable Phillip Ruddock.
The success of
the symposium has fueled interest in holding a second Trading Ideas
Symposium in another APEC Member Economy in the coming years. Selected
transcripts are available at www.tradingideas.org