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Address at the World Economic Forum session on Fighting Counterfeits

28 January 2005

Address at the World Economic Forum session on Fighting Counterfeits 

“HOW TO IMPROVE CURRENT WORLDWIDE LEGISLATION”

Davos, 28 January 2005

Distinguished Governors of the World Economic Forum,

I am honored to talk to you on the topic of the fight against counterfeits that the WCO’s 164 member customs administrations have been struggling against for years. Recent customs seizure records in major countries suggest a continuing increase in the volume of counterfeits in world markets. The modus operandi continues to become more sophisticated by using a range of commodities and various routings in efforts to evade border control.

Indeed, under the WTO TRIPs (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement, customs in many countries have been striving to establish and improve a more complete legal framework and enforcement system for IPR border protection. In order to help its members in this area, the WCO has developed its model legislation, in partnership with the private sector. It is based on best practice around the world, including the recent European Union efforts that the EC Commissioner has just explained. The guide to the legal text is thus available. It consists of the necessary empowerment of customs officials while facilitating cooperation with rights holders and other competent authorities.

What we need most in this regard, however, is to improve understanding at the political and policy-making level of the serious consequence of the counterfeiting trade and the vital role that enforcement authorities can play in fighting IPR crime. Fortunately, there has been an increased awareness in industry and governments that counterfeiting is a serious threat to consumer health and safety. I hope that awareness in the consumer also increases, which will make our enforcement easier. We must also strive to ensure that developing countries also see the benefit in IPR enforcement, including the rise in confidence of international business in trade and investment.

But are we getting the message across? Are developing countries convinced and therefore engaged? These are the questions we have to bear in mind. In this connection, I believe that an economic and social impact study to be conducted by a global institution like the OECD is an important next step. Needless to say, the WCO will facilitate the study.
 
Another key to improve legislation and its enforcement is the partnership with  Business and competent authorities. IPR is a unique area of enforcement where Business possesses the vast majority of knowledge and has well-advanced corporate strategies and resources. In this regard, we had a good start with the first Global Congress on Counterfeiting in May 2004, which was a direct outcome of the World Economic Forum 2003 meeting. The WCO very much appreciates the partnership that have emerged through this process, particularly with Interpol, WIPO, Global Business Leaders Alliance against Counterfeiting, consumer industries and others. It will be impossible to make real progress if we continue separate steps.

We followed-up the outcome from the first Global Congress with international initiatives in Rome in October and in Shanghai in November 2004. Both initiatives produced tangible outcomes in terms of “legislation and procedures”, “risk analysis”, “information sharing” between customs, competent authorities and the business community, and “capacity building” for law enforcement agencies. We believe that the continuation of the partnership is essential. Like the war against illicit narcotics trafficking, the fight against counterfeits entails long-range battles and challenges for all of us.

Thank you very much for your attention.
 
Kunio Mikuriya, Deputy Secretary General, WCO