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The Ninth Freest Country
Friday, January 14, 2011 9:32 am | By Katerina Bricker

The Heritage Foundation released their 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. They briefly define economic freedom as the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property and in an economically free society they are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they would like, which is protected. This has been tracked for over a decade by the Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation.

 
Economic freedom is measured from ten components and is assigned a grade from 0 to 100, where 100 is the maximum level of freedom. The ten component scores are averaged to give an overall economic freedom score for that particular country. The ten components to economic freedom are listed below.
  1. Business Freedom
  2. Trade Freedom
  3. Fiscal Freedom
  4. Government Spending
  5. Monetary Freedom
  6. Investment Freedom
  7. Financial Freedom
  8. Property Rights
  9. Freedom from Corruption
  10. Labor Freedom
The property rights component is the ability of individuals to accumulate private property, secured by laws that are fully enforced. The degree to which a country’s law protect private property rights and the degree to which it is enforced are taken into account for the grade of freedom. The more protection of private property rights, the higher that country will score. Out of the 183 countries assessed, New Zealand scored a 95 on the property rights score with 14 other countries trailing with a 90. The US scored an 85.
 
The United States’ overall score for the ten components is 77.8 percent, which is well above world and regional averages. This makes the US the 9th freest country in the 2011 Index. It has gone down .2 percent from last year. The recent spending spree of the government and the interventionist responses to the economic slowdown has hurt economic freedom. There has been no change in the property rights component since last year. According to the Index the US scored an 85 because their property rights are guaranteed, contacts are secure, and the judiciary is independent.
 
Reports such as Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom laid the groundwork for other indices such as PRA’s own International Property Rights Index (IPRI) to be created. The 2010 IPRI analyzes data for 125 countries around the globe on their protection of physical and intellectual property, representing ninety-six percent of world GDP.

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Report Finds Counterfeiting and Piracy Websites Attract Billions
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 2:52 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

To underscore the threat of online theft, anti-fraud firm Markmonitor released a study examining a range of sites that offered pirated content and counterfeit goods. The study looked at a sampling of 22 brands, both digital content and physical goods, and found that websites that offered pirated or counterfeit versions of those brands generated a staggering 53 billion visits per year with the majority of visits going to sites that offer digital content. While the 53 billion visit number does not equate to the number of downloads or purchases, this study provides a valuable snapshot into the rampant use of these sites to gain access to illegal goods.

The issue of online counterfeiting and piracy gained much needed attention last year as members of the IP industries and those in Congress and the Administration looked to come up with ways to deal with the very real threat online infringement poses to the economy. Activity in this area included the appointment of Victoria Espinel as the first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, negotiation of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and Senator Leahy’s introduction of S. 3804, the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act.”

The theft of intellectual property is pervasive and not only harms the economy but society as a whole. When an individual or company is no longer able to count on protection to monetize their work the very incentive to create is undermined. Beyond the steps taken by government to combat online infringement highlighted above, I believe it is more important to highlight what private industry is doing to come up with solutions outside of government intervention. Last month it was announced that an industry-led effort was underway to target rogue sites that specialize in peddling counterfeit pharmaceuticals and stop them from doing business. Companies included in the coalition are Microsoft, Google, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Yahoo, GoDaddy, Neustar, PayPal, and eNom.

Additionally, Google signaled a shift in how its search service deals with counterfeits and piracy. Google will be implementing four changes to its service that include: acting on reliable copyright takedown requests within 24 hours; preventing terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in autocomplete; improving its AdSense anti-piracy review; and tweaking search queries to make authorized content more readily available.

These are reasonable steps that could make serious progress in the front to combat intellectual property theft.

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Plain Packaging of Cigarettes Will Not Reach Goals
Tuesday, December 21, 2010 4:52 pm | By Katerina Bricker

Cigarette branding may be coming to an end in Scotland and the UK, as government officials seek to enact plain packaging regulations. Right now Australia is set to become the first country to introduce plain packages in 2012 and the European Union is considering a ban. These drastic measures are taking place due to the fact that they believe it will help decrease cigarette usage in their countries, as well as the go-to feel good fallacy that “it’s for the children.”

 
As we have mentioned before this attacks intellectual property rights to the core. Last week, the Property Rights Alliance submitted comments to the European Commission regarding the possible revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. Click, HERE if you wish to read the full letter. Essentially, enacting plain packaging rules halts tobacco companies from exercising their intellectual property rights. If the EU directive is enacted it will forbid companies from displaying their trademarks and thereby not allowing them to differentiate their products on the basis of their trademark. This strikes at the core principals of corporate identity and consumer information that European businesses are based upon.
 
Here is a list of the effects of the possible revision from PRA’s comments:
 
  1. No reduction in smoking rates: There is no evidence whatsoever to demonstrate that the implementation of plain packaging will lead to any decrease in the total quantity of alcohol products sold. Brand substitution is the only effect.
  2. Cheaper cigarette prices: Since companies will not have the ability to compete on the basis of logo/trademark differentiation, consumers will only have the ability differentiate products based on pricing.
  3. Increased counterfeiting: By preventing the brands to display their trademarks on their tobacco products it allows a greater threat for their products to be faked and therefore could have detrimental effects to consumers.
  4. Threaten jobs: At a time of economic downturn this could cost jobs to many hard working families such as, graphic designers and paper producers.
 
Additionally, plain packaging rules will breach the EU’s legal obligations in relation to international trade and European law. The possible revision would fail to do what it is put in place to do and at the same time violate intellectual property rights granted to all. This is counterproductive and should not reach fruition.

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