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Hunt down the pirates

July 24, 2008

FESTIVAL TIME is when pirates do a thriving business and law enforcement officials in the CARICOM islands are getting a timely refresher on intellectual property rights.

About 32 people, attorneys and prosecutors, are participating in a three-day workshop which got under way at Hilton Barbados yesterday. It is being facilitated by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), through the local embassy.

During his opening remarks, chargé d’affaires Dr Brent Hardt noted that a lot of new music was produced in the islands around carnival time, and it was “all the more reason for strong IP [intellectual property] enforcement”.

“Protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights not only protects consumers, but also fosters local economic development.

“The better the legal framework and enforcement mechanisms, the more companies are willing to do business in the region, and the more local companies will enjoy protection of their products and innovations,” stated Hardt, adding that police and prosecutors had a vital role to play.

Facilitator Todd Reves, an attorney advisor at the USPTO, said their goal was to increase the awareness of police officers and prosecutors of the problem of piracy and counterfeiting.

Noting that piracy was the main copyright issue in the Caribbean, Reves said most of the officers and prosecutors with whom he had come into contact were aware that piracy was a problem, but it was more of a resource issue.

“Do they prosecute intellectual property crimes, or do they prosecute the more serious crimes? It’s always a tough call to make, but we’re trying to bring them up to speed on what the tools are that they have at their disposal in the prosecution of an investigation,” Hardt added.

He suggested that part of the solution was increasing public awareness of what constituted an infringement and the fact that piracy hurt the economy, artistes and everyone involved in the production process.

The USPTO also held a regional training seminar in Trinidad in October 2007 on Intellectual Property Enforcement for customs officials.


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