Aretha Franklin singing at inauguration.
09 March 2009 Blog: Observations on Innovation and Intellectual Property, March 27, 2009
Frank Pietrucha is president of the Washington-based marketing communications firm Definitive Communications and a member of the Creative and Innovative Economy Center of George Washington University. Through his professional and pro bono work, he has campaigned for solid intellectual property rights (IPR) and their enforcement as essential to the advancement of developing economies and the strength of established ones.
Visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on business, I quickly became impressed by their savvy plans to diversify their economy. The second largest economy in the Arab world, the UAE has embraced free market/free trade liberalization policies to move away from its dependence on oil.
The UAE has made the protection of intellectual property a priority in recent years. The year 2002 was critical as far as intellectual property rights (IPR) goes — with improved legislation including copyright, patent and trademark laws. IPR legislation is important to countries interested in signing free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States. The United States is trying to secure a bilateral FTA with the UAE as part of its drive to patch together an overall U.S.-Middle East FTA by 2013.
The Brand Owners Protection Group has come on strong with its efforts to gear up for an extensive UAE-wide IPR campaign this year. The group — which has big name corporation sponsors, such as Mercedes Benz, Kraft, Nokia and Estee Lauder — is working in collaboration with UAE government agencies to run enforcement training programs and workshops in 2009. It says it has signed a memo of agreement with government units across the UAE to initiate a cooperation mechanism to “eliminate counterfeit products, which seriously challenge the local economy.”
An event taking place in Abu Dhabi March 17-22 worth taking note of is the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, host of the event, proudly acknowledges that the UAE is the only Arab state in the top 20 countries protecting those rights. UAE beats many European countries, including France, Spain, Italy and Ireland, in combating piracy. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, said commitment to IPR is among the main priorities of the book fair.
The British-Indian hit Slumdog Millionaire won big at the 81st Academy Awards. The film has been a box office boon around the world, except the place you would think it would do best … India. Fox Star Studios reports that Slumdog grossed only 135 million rupees ($2.8 million) over its first weekend in India last month.
There are a number of factors that contributed to the movie’s lackluster performance in India. But piracy, says Vijay Singh, chief executive of Fox Star, was a major reason for the lower-than-desired box office receipts. Apparently, “a lot of people had already watched it” before it hit the big screen.
How cheap and accessible is a bootleg DVD of Slumdog? Allegedly, you can buy a pirated copy for around 50 or 80 rupees. That’s about a dollar to a dollar and a half.
The U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) had hoped the release of the movie in India would prompt authorities to increase efforts to fight film and video piracy. Its members had thought the global success of the film would spotlight the “squandered creativity” caused by piracy, which plagues Bollywood. It is estimated that intellectual piracy costs the Indian entertainment and media industry thousands of jobs and about $4 billion a year. The USIBC suggests that the Indian government should enact IPR law regarding optical disc production. If enforced effectively, such a law could help turn the tide against piracy.