Monday, August 29, 2011 4:21 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek
Last week, it was announced Google agreed to pay $500 million in fines for knowingly allowing Canadian pharmacies to advertise to U.S. consumers. Currently, it is illegal to import prescription drugs into the United States.
The news of the settlement isn’t shocking and had been expected for many months but it did present another instance to call into question Google’s policies when it comes to protecting intellectual property online, which in the case of online pharmacies could be considered reckless. Regardless of opinions, this news now provides me with the opportunity to highlight the potential dangers from buying drugs online and what is being done to ensure the safety of consumers.
While many legitimate websites do exist that provide consumers with lower cost prescription drugs, unfortunately there are just as many, if not more rogue sites that have the look and feel of a legitimate online pharmacy. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, counterfeit drug sales account for about $75 billion in global sales and many are purchased via an authentic looking online site. An estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of drugs in North America are counterfeit.
Fortunately, in recent years, industry has come together (Google included) to work to target websites that peddle in counterfeit medicines and stop them from doing business. Additionally, in February 2010, Google changed its policy and now only take ads from U.S. pharmacies accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, and from online pharmacies in Canada that are accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. (better late than never?)
The problem of rogue counterfeit websites is not going away anytime soon and to combat the proliferation of these sites is going to take cooperation from both public and private interests and, ultimately, consumers who learn the difference between a legitimate site and illegitimate site.
Interests in Mississippi Try to Block Eminent Domain Reform
Tuesday, July 26, 2011 10:45 am | By Grant Morgan
Small business and farm groups took their fight to court on Monday over an attempt to block a constitutional amendment for eminent domain reform from being placed before Mississippi voters.
The amendment, mirroring legislative efforts in other states, would prohibit government taking of land for anything other than a defined “public project.” It would effectively prohibit the turning over of land taken by eminent domain to private investors, as was permitted by the Supreme Court in the Kelo decision.
The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and the National Federation of Independent Business appeared as “friends of the court”, arguing that placing the amendment to the state constitution on the ballot is permissible under the US Constitution because they claim that it does not change the definition of “public use” or grant new rights to property owners, but rather codifies existing definitions in order to protect property-owners from abuse and provide certainty.
Karen Harned, a spokesperson for the NFIB legal center, stated that “"It's one thing for government to take private property for long-standing and well-agreed public uses, but it's just plain wrong for the government to take someone's home, business or farm so someone else can develop the land or secure a better location."
While four candidates for the Mississippi Governor’s office support the initiative, outgoing Governor Haley Barbour opposes it, claiming that it would limit the ability of the state to attract major development projects. The court challenge was initiated by Leland Speed, head of the Mississippi Development Authority, acting as a private citizen.
The Property Rights Alliance supports the ballot initiative, as an attempt to protect property-owners and small businesses, and limit eminent domain powers to their originally intended use. At very least, those opposing the measure should be persuaded to drop their court challenge, and make their arguments before the public.
Fake Apple Stores Show the Weakness of Chinese IP Laws
Monday, July 25, 2011 1:00 pm | By Grant Morgan
China’s ongoing difficulties with the protection of intellectual property took a bizarre turn last week, as international news sources discovered a major distributor of fake Apple products. While knock-off electronics being sold in China is hardly news, what makes this incident unique is the way in which the fraud artists went about selling them: they created an entire imitation Apple Store. The Property Rights Alliance has detailed China’s ongoing problems in our annual Intellectual Property Rights Index.
The fake Apple store included the signature logo, décor, and uniforms for employees. Indeed, even many employees of the business thought that they were employed by the real Apple and that they were selling actual iPhones and iPads. It was only after an American blogger living in China visited the store and notices some discrepancies that the scam came to light. While Apple refused to comment on the fake store, it appears to be an attempt to exploit the ongoing sales success of the company in China, which has recently yielded record sales figures.
While the idea of creating an entire fraudulent storefront may seem amusing to some, it highlights real problems with Chinese intellectual property enforcement. Apple has invested billions of dollars in building a reputation for innovative products and helpful customer service. When fraud artists appropriate that brand for themselves and sell low-quality imitation products from a bogus store-front, they are both stealing the work of others and undermining that hard-earned reputation. Those who innovate and create value should therefore be concerned about the ongoing lax enforcement of China’s international IP obligations.