April 22, 2014

IP Education Far Beyond the Classroom

By Brian Noyes

If I walk down the street on any given day and introduce myself as someone who works in intellectual property, the vast majority of the time I am met with blank stares. So often IP is cast aside as something for the wonkish to sort out. However, as an increasing proportion of our economy depends on IP and as e-commerce breaks down both cyber borders and physical borders, consumer education is becoming even more necessary.

What we’re seeing are individuals- enter, David Lowery: University of Georgia lecturer, musician, and blogger extraordinaire- whose advocacy is aimed at providing students and music-lovers with a no-holds-barred view of how digital piracy affects real people with real jobs in the industry.

We’re also seeing companies, like Canon U.S.A., partaking in consumer advocacy campaigns warning against the purchase of counterfeit batteries and camera gear. Businesses like Canon which produce innovative products are magnets for counterfeiters looking to make a real dollar on fake products, like counterfeit batteries, that can oftentimes be harmful to the gear and the consumer.

In fact, the market of dangerous fakes is mushrooming at a prolific pace, with counterfeit medicines overtaking actual drug dealing as one of the most lucrative trades. This fact along with the increasing use of the Internet to purchase prescriptions from worldwide “retailers” makes the work of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP)  and the “Be Safe, Buy Smart” campaign in partnership with the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) all the more important. Their work is directly helping consumers avoid falling victim to illegal online pharmacies, which make up an astonishing 96% of all such Internet dispensaries.

But beyond the actual harm of the counterfeit goods themselves, there is a greater story that needs to be told. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is doing just that. The “Counterfeit: Don’t Buy Into Organized Crime” campaign shows that those fake sunglasses aren’t as harmless as you may suspect: with nefarious criminals, international gangs, and unscrupulous political regimes set to profit from the couple of bucks that were just in your pocket.

By now you may have noticed that IP Champions can be found in many different forms- from the enforcement agencies (both international and domestic) who uphold intellectual property rights, to the partnerships between companies and universities who bring us next-generation goods and services to, finally, individuals and organizations who educate the public on the fallouts from IP theft.

We are proud to induct these campaigns and advocates into the 2014 class of IP Champions for their public advocacy in keeping consumers safe, educated, and aware.


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