APEC's Work for the Protection of Software IPRs

Seoul, Korea, 09 November 2005
  • Speech by Ambassador Choi Seok Young, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
The honorable Vice Minister Rho,
Chairman of PDMC Ku,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the APEC Secretariat, I would like to extend my deep appreciation to the Programme Deliberation and Mediation Committee (PDMC) and the Ministry of Information and Communication for organizing this important forum. This meeting is particularly significant and relevant, since it is being held on the eve of the 13th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, and the protection of software Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) has become one of the important deliverables for the APEC process this year.
At the outset, I would like to make a brief introduction of APEC's activities and the main outcome of the APEC 2005. Thereafter I will touch upon on the role of APEC in the field of the protection of software intellectual property rights.
APEC is a forum consisting of twenty one member economies in the Pacific Rim. Their total GDP and trade volume account for more than 60% and about 50% of those of the whole world. APEC's goals are to pursue the trade and investment liberalization and facilitation and the economic and technical cooperation to build economic community in the long run.
APEC 2005 has been guided by the overarching theme of "Towards One Community - Meet the Challenge, Make the Change" and a further series of sub-themes. A number of APEC events, ranging from working group meetings to ministerial meetings, have been held in the course of the year. In 2005, APEC has already held seven sectoral ministerial meetings covering the portfolios of trade, telecommunications, small and medium enterprises, oceans, finance, energy, and mining.
Each of these ministerial meetings made a significant individual contribution to the APEC agenda as we move closer to achieving our core goals of free trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific.
2005 marked a significant year for the APEC process in terms of policy challenges as well. The focus of APEC this year could be categorized with broadly three areas such as trade liberalization and facilitation; human securities and the economic and technical cooperation. To go a bit in details, APEC's contribution to the WTO/DDA negotiations; Increased transparency of FTAs/RTAs; Mid-term stocktaking of the progress towards the Bogor Goals; Concrete actions for the human securities such as anti terrorism, health security, emergence preparedness; and energy security; APEC reform and financial sustainability.
In addition, the 2005 APEC year will also make substantial progress in a number of other trade related areas. These include the institutionalization of anti-corruption measures in the APEC process and particularly the introduction of strengthened action plans against counterfeiting and intellectual property piracy.
Mr. Chairman,
Before introducing APEC's combat to counterfeiting and intellectual property piracy, I wish to highlight the importance of the protection of software IPRs for three different dimensions:
First, a basic question is exactly how much is lost from legitimate business for counterfeiting and IPR piracy? Many from industry sources estimate losses in billions of dollars, and I am aware that the WIPO will soon be conducting a workshop that will look into an accurate methodology of determining these figures;
Second, the advent of information technology and its many forms and uses is a relatively new phenomenon. At domestic level, new laws have to be rewritten or updated to cover illegal activities under the new technology such as end-user piracy, internet piracy, counterfeiting and online auction piracy;
Third, the effects of globalization and networked societies will surely compound the problems of software IPR at the international level. There is thus a greater need to coordinate international action as cross-border transactions take place with the click of a mouse button.
Now, I wish to turn to the work of APEC in protecting IPR and addressing the counterfeiting and IPR piracy issues.
The protection of IPRs was provided for in the 1995 Osaka Action Agenda (OAA), where APEC Ministers outlined 15 issue areas for the economic development of the region. General objective of the IPRs protection contains the software protection as well. Since OAA provides the framework on which member economies' Individual Action Plans (IAPs) and the Collective Action Plans (CAPs) are based, each economy's updates on IPR developments are submitted annually and are subject to the Peer Review process.
The Intellectual Property Rights Experts' Group (IPEG) began operational under the CTI from 1996. The main scope of agenda has been TRIPS compliance, WTO-DDA discussions on IPR matters, trademarks, patents, copyrights (under which software falls), enforcement issues, best practices and public awareness among others. The IPEG meets twice a year and is currently headed by Korea. The work of the IPEG has been gaining importance as the issue of IPR has been elevated for special mention in the work of other important APEC bodies.
Recent APEC documents have highlighted IPR concerns and reflected the priorities and direction of work being undertaken under the APEC process. In 2004, Leaders and Ministers recognized that improved protection and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights contribute to the promotion of investment, innovation and economic growth, and agreed in 2005 on the need to build on the APEC Comprehensive Strategy on Intellectual Property Rights including to reduce piracy, trade in counterfeit goods and online piracy, and increase cooperation and capacity building.
In 2005, Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) urged economies to take concrete steps to reduce trade in counterfeit and pirated goods, curtail online piracy, as well as to increase cooperation and capacity building. Trade Ministers therefore endorsed the APEC Anti-Counterfeiting and Piracy Initiative and instructed officials to intensify their work in the coming months to develop guidelines and called for the Initiative as concrete deliverables for the November APEC Ministers Meeting (AMM). ABAC 2005 also recommended Leaders to develop effective guidelines to reduce trade in counterfeit and pirated goods and the sale of counterfeit goods over the internet.
All these declarations and statements focused to some key concerns which I believe can be summarized in three phrases - 1) IPR protection and enforcement; 2) counterfeiting and piracy; and 3) cooperation and capacity building. Now, I wish turn to the details of APEC frameworks or guidelines.
A Comprehensive Strategy was formed in the 2003 APEC Thai year with the objective of setting guidelines for proper protection and enforcement of IPRs. These guidelines have four components such as the promotion of information exchange/sharing between economies; training for IPR enforcement personnel; provision of information to rights holders; information provision and awareness enhancement for the general public.
These four guidelines are in turn supported by seven programs such as presentation on IPR Enforcement Situations (China); illustrative Practices (Japan); finalized version of Survey on laws and regulations, and border enforcement of IPRs (Philippines); IP Toolkit (Australia); Digital Economy Next Steps (USA); Training Program (Vietnam); IPR Service Center (Japan)
The Anti-Counterfeiting and Piracy Initiative is a more recent innovation that builds upon the Comprehensive Strategy by providing a narrower focus on the major problem of counterfeiting and piracy, while at the same time addressing cooperation and capacity building. The initiative proposes work in four (4) areas: reducing trade in counterfeit and pirated goods; reducing online piracy; increasing cooperation to stop piracy and counterfeiting; increasing capacity building to strengthen anti-piracy enforcement. This initiative will be one of the most important deliverables this year.
These three actions taken together provide APEC with the necessary tools to address weaknesses in IPR enforcement and protection. The sub-issue of software is necessarily covered under copyright protection, and this is present under all three programs - policy progress mapping, the comprehensive strategy, and the anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiative - although it is most directly addressed under the third action.
We need also to recognize the coordinating role and actual work of the IPEG which is the main engine for IPR issues under the APEC. This is especially true for the capacity building and training aspects of IPR issues. Furthermore, since the IPEG prepares and meets precisely on IPR issues, the latest developments and problems in this field are better discussed and understood at this level.
It should be clear that the particular value that APEC brings to this issue lies in the composition of the group - 21 member economies of over 2.5 billion people, a combined GDP of over US $ 19 trillion and 47% of world trade - the APEC region is the most economically dynamic region in the world, especially in the area of information technology.
If we are able to create better networks of cooperation and coordination, and align or harmonize rules and procedures in IPR as we described today, I am quite confident that our joint efforts will bear fruit that each member economy may enjoy.
Thank you and good day.