News
Cracking Down on Counterfeits
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 4:51 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

Criminals can make upwards of $450,000 off the production and sale of counterfeit medicines with just $1,000 in seed money, more than 20 times the profit made from selling heroin with the same investment.

These startling figures, compiled by Interpol, were cited in a recent article about Pfizer’s efforts to combat the proliferation of counterfeit medicines. The manufacturer of Viagra, one of the most copied drugs, has hired a team of former law enforcement officials to track down counterfeiters in order for Pfizer to bring the producers of fake drugs to civil court rather than relying on local authorities and criminal courts to find them and prosecute. According to Simeon Bennett of Bloomberg Businessweek:

“Since 2007, Pfizer has spent $3.3 million on investigations and legal fees and recovered about $5.1 million. It expects to collect an additional $5.3 million from ongoing cases. Pfizer says it has prevented about 58 million counterfeit pills from reaching patients since 2004.”

The trade in counterfeit medicines has skyrocketed in recent years. According the Markmonitor, a firm that works with companies on brand protection, sales of counterfeit goods via the internet will reach $135 billion this year. Weakening of IP rights not only is detrimental to the economy, but also puts the public’s health and safety at risk. The WHO estimates that counterfeit drugs constitute up to 25% of the total medicine supply in less developed countries. These medicines could either contain no active ingredients, very little active ingredients that will do nothing to fight the disease and may even make it more resistant to treatment, or in the worst case scenario the counterfeit could contain toxic materials. The International Policy Network estimates that around 700,000 deaths per year from only malaria and tuberculosis are attributable to fake drugs.

This move by Pfizer is welcome not only because the company is taking proactive steps to protect its brand but also its customers who risk being harmed from substandard drugs.
 

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Schools Risk Losing Funds for Tolerating Piracy
Tuesday, July 6, 2010 2:13 pm | By Anthony Lizan

Copyright infringers can’t seem to catch a break this week, thankfully. As noted in the previous post, the government successfully launched an initiative that closed nine websites notorious for trafficking stolen movies. Just as important, new policies are being enacted to curb internet piracy on college campuses. Now, schools that don’t implement anti-piracy provisions risk losing money for federal student aid.

The provisions result from the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which states that schools must enact plans to, “ effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by users of the institution's network.”

The new rules will make a huge impact in fighting illegal downloading, because college age students makeup the largest demographic of internet pirates. According to a study commissioned by the MPA, “The typical pirate is age 16-24...” and “44 percent of MPA company losses in the U.S. are attributable to college students.” Cheryl Asper Elzy, Dean of University Libraries at Illinois State University, found that more than 50% of dorm residents with broadband connections have illegally downloaded copyrighted material. Furthermore, the House Committee on Science and Technology found that, “In 2006, some 1.3 billion music tracks were downloaded illegally in the U.S. by college students, compared with approximately 500 million legal downloads.”

Yet, there is hope for the younger generation. In the same study, Dean Elzy found that most students will stop downloading illegally if warned or threatened by their school. Stricter anti-piracy laws do work. They can save thousands of jobs a year and protect whole businesses from going bankrupt. It is imperative to remain vigilant when it comes to copyright infringement. For the sake of the economy, we can’t afford not to.
 

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New Operation Sees Early Results
Thursday, July 1, 2010 5:31 pm | By Anthony Lizan

IP thieves have a new foe, and its name is “Operation in Our Sites.” The initiative announced yesterday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeks to further crackdown on copyright infringement, especially websites that distribute recently released movies.

Although it’s still young, the initiative has been successful so far. According to Variety Magazine, the “Initiative…has already seized the domain names of nine websites. They include Movieslinks.tv, Planetmoviez.com, ZML.com, Thepiratecity.org, Filespump.com, TVShack.net, Now-Movies.com, NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net.” These sites were notorious for pirating.

The initiative comes on the heels of the new Joint Strategic Plan on IP Enforcement. The plan promised to “ensure the broad participation of Federal Agencies responsible for criminal intellectual property infringement investigations in cooperative efforts.” ICE, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, and Homeland Security all worked together on this specific case; giving hope to property rights advocates that the Obama administration is following through on implementing its IP policies.

Out of all of the intellectual property based industries, the entertainment business is especially vulnerable to piracy because of improved technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the motion picture and music recording industries—which employ over 354,000 people—have seen mass layoff events rise consistently over the past three months. Furthermore, the unemployment rate in the industries rose from 14.5% in February, to 17.5% in May. Harsher crackdowns on illegal distributions will save hundreds of millions in lost revenue and thousands of jobs a year.

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