October 6th, 2007 09:17 EST
Intellectual Property: Georgians, Americans Plan Steps To Protect them
Washington -- Representatives from Georgia and the United States agreed to work toward establishing a Georgian government point-person to enforce intellectual property protection laws in Georgia and to publicize clear steps for complainants.
In their videoconference, the officials and business people from the two countries latched upon the idea of developing a simple “road map” -- either a brochure or Web site with clear steps laid out -- that tells intellectual property holders how to proceed if their rights have been violated in Georgia. Several of them said the first step must be to go to a designated enforcement person or office.
“Just because it is written into the laws, doesn’t mean it is easy,” said Danica Starks of the U.S. Commerce Department.
She was one of the American officials who joined Georgian counterparts by videoconference October 5 to talk about the importance of enforcing intellectual property rights.
In the videoconference originating at the U.S. State Department, Carroll Colley, of the U.S. Commerce Department, outlined economic reasons for protecting business innovators, artists and performers whose work is copyrighted. He said those groups together contribute nearly 7 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and represent 5 million employees with high-paying salaries. (They do not include trademark owners, like pharmaceutical or high-tech companies.)
As Georgia’s economy grows, protection can help that country’s small, innovative industries to flourish, officials said. Representatives from Georgia’s business community said that while laws are in place in Georgia to protect intellectual property, the judicial system is not well equipped to handle enforcement cases.
The Georgian delegation also said that Georgian consumers are not willing to pay higher prices for legal products when people easily can find illegally copied software, movies and music. They said the country is flooded by contraband coming from Russia.
Giorgi Chirakadze, president of United Global Technologies, said that there is “no top government official responsible” for enforcing intellectual property laws. He said that while businesses -- banks and telecommunications companies, especially -- are beginning to buy licensed software, the Georgian government itself has no budget for that and thus uses illegal software.
But Irakli Chikvaidze, director of Rustaveli Cinema Ltd., said that an enforcement push does not mean you have to put all citizens holding illegal software in jail. “You make previous versions free,” he said, while enforcing the law on the newest version.
Colley told the group about his department’s training of U.S. small and medium-sized companies to protect their innovations. He said his department has set up a toll-free telephone number that business owners can call for information.
Eric Schwartz, who represents a U.S. industry group called the International Intellectual Property Alliance, said that enforcement is the most difficult task. He said the focus should not be on “schoolteachers” who might have some software that was illegally copied. “Take action at street kiosks and stores selling it,” he advised, “and at organized crime syndicates and large-scale businesses producing it.”
He called Russia the “largest pirate in the world” and said that customs officials in Georgia need to stop illegal goods coming in from Russia. He said the U.S. government is trying to stop production of illegal goods at Russian factories.
One member of the Georgian delegation said that young people learning high-tech skills -- which are important to Georgia’s future economic growth -- need inexpensive software. But Paul Burkhead of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said that protecting intellectual property rights of software designers must be part of establishing an attractive business climate.
“It is an important component of every developed economy that wants to attract foreign investment and trade,” he said. “But also your domestic companies need protection.” He said that intellectual property is just that -- “property. It’s not just Hollywood [movies], but also Georgian products, like wine, that are counterfeited.”
For more stories on intellectual property rights, see Protecting Intellectual Property Rights.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Elizabeth Kelleher
USINFO Staff Writer
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