World News

Asia plans crime-busting network for IP thieves

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The scale of intellectual property crimes is “overwhelming” in Asia and law enforcement agencies need to work together to fight piracy and counterfeiting in the region, officials said on Tuesday.

Details of the proposed IP Crimes Enforcement Network will be worked out by some 70 police, customs officials and prosecutors from 13 Asia-Pacific nations gathered in Bangkok this week.

“Intellectual property crimes have no borders and in order to be successful we have to make major multinational cases,” Sigal Mandelker, a senior official from the U.S. Department of Justice, told reporters.

Counterfeiting and piracy exact costs, including lost profit, exceeding $100 billion a year and can endanger health and safety with goods such as medicines, according to the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). They include faked “everday items” such as food, toys, cosmetics, drugs and batteries, as well as music, movies and branded luxury goods.

“The problem with this issue for all of our countries -- and I include U.S. law enforcement here -- the size of it is overwhelming,” said James Entwistle, deputy chief of mission in U.S. embassy in Bangkok.

The Bangkok meeting aims to share ideas on fighting retail counterfeiting and piracy, the production and distribution of counterfeit goods, Internet-based IP theft, and border enforcement.

It will also help officials to “know who to call” when they find evidence of transnational crimes, said Mandelker, Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the department’s Criminal Division.

The United States organised the conference attended by officials from several Southeast Asian nations, Japan, South Korea, Australia and China, where Washington has long complained about rampant counterfeiting of American movies and music.

A senior Chinese official said last week China’s battle against IP piracy will take “generations”, but added the main victims were Chinese and other countries should stop politicising the issue.

Host Thailand’s decision to override international patents on foreign-made drugs in the past year -- which outraged big drug makers and drew flak from Washington and Brussels -- would not be on the meeting’s agenda.

“It’s a very emotional issue, but if you can turn down the heat a bit and have a rational discussion, our experience is these things can be worked out in rational way,” Entwistle said.