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Brazil: Enough IPR Protection?

Is Brazil doing enough to fight piracy of software, music and other products? Three experts share their views.

Latin America Advisor

In recent weeks, international business groups, as well as the US government, have called on Brazil to devote more resources to combating piracy and protecting intellectual property. Is Brazil doing enough to fight piracy? What steps can it take to achieve a decline in piracy and IP theft? Can it be successful without international help?

Luiz Paulo Barreto, President of Brazil's National Anti-Piracy Council: Brazil has made a giant effort to combat piracy. In 2005, the National Anti-Piracy Council was created, with the participation of public and private entities. The National Anti-Piracy Plan was published, with 99 actions for the short, medium, and long term, divided among law enforcement, educational, and economic actions. In 2005 and 2006, every arrest record was broken in an unprecedented joint effort among Brazilian federal tax authorities, federal police, and federal highway police. Much emphasis was placed on the triple border region between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, the biggest area for illegal merchandise. The advances are big and a reduction in rates of piracy of products such as CDs and cigarettes has already been observed. Law enforcement actions contributed the most to the decline of piracy and intellectual property violations. Still, it is not enough to combat the supply of pirated products. Taking action against demand is also needed, making the consumer aware of the harm caused by piracy, in addition to [action against] the big appeal of falsified products—the price. That is, the industry needs to offer cheaper products or invest in popular lines that offer a way for legal consumption. Brazil believes international cooperation to fight crimes against intellectual property is fundamental, since today piracy is practiced and controlled by transnational organized crime. We also believe that greater participation by companies that suffer from piracy is fundamental to the success of the National Anti-Piracy Plan.

Harley Lewin, Chairman of Trademarks and Global Brand Strategies at Greenberg Traurig, LLP: Brazil, being one of the two engines of South America, needs to seriously commit to the protection of intellectual property. It has not done so in a significant manner, despite upgrading its laws. While the laws are for the most part sufficient, the application of the law is in large part missing at almost every level—law enforcement, customs, prosecution, and in the judiciary. Much of Brazil considers intellectual property something that is not worth protecting. At the government level, ever subject to political pressure, patent protection is removed whenever it suits the government's purpose. As to copyright, protection for DVDs, software, music, and film is virtually non-existent. As a consequence, the answer to your question about whether enough is being done is a resounding no. Brazil could do much more by itself, but also needs a certain amount of help, particularly in upgrading its customs operations. This is a top-down issue and needs to be led by the government at every level. The people need to be educated that buying and selling counterfeit goods is something that cannot be tolerated. The money that would be secured in taxes, that could pay for schools, roads, police, etc. is lost to this economy. Much of law enforcement considers this a victimless crime. They are wrong. Children die from bad drugs, roads don't get built—the loss in revenue to the government is staggering. Most companies in the music and entertainment business have pulled out from the country entirely. Others are considering the same, whether in footwear, apparel, or other industries. The net effect—dilution of capital investment, lack of growth, loss of leading edge technology, and loss of income—remains."

Isabel Franco, Senior Partner at Demarest e Almeida Advogados and a member of the Sao Paulo Amcham Board of Directors.:  Definitely Brazil, and other countries, could do a lot more to combat piracy and protect intellectual property. For the sake of space, let me just talk about efforts in combating piracy. Nothing is enough to curtail what is being called the crime of the century. But the speed at which several different Brazilian sectors have in the recent past been uniting their efforts to combat these crimes is surprising. Several new associations have been formed. The Legal Brazilian Institute boasts it has reduced by 70 percent piracy in the computer, electronic, and electric industries in the past two years. The Amcham Task Force—a group which I chaired last year—brought together several associations and last month created the first Forum of Educators in Awareness against piracy. Many partnerships between the private and public sectors have been successful, with the private sector lending its technical expertise to governmental agents in ports and airports in the identification of illegal products. To illustrate, in 2005 more than 350 police operations were launched, with about 250 arrests, and millions of dollars in counterfeited merchandise were seized. In 2006, there were three times more apprehensions than in 2005. In January 2006, the US recognized Brazil's efforts in combating piracy, commending Brazil's progress on copyright enforcement, including the formation of a public-private National Anti-Piracy Council, and a similar council in the state of Sao Paulo, and several other groups engaged in the development of an action plan to combat piracy crimes and increase police action ... All in all, given the overwhelming amplitude of this task, these efforts are commendable but far from enough. Brazil is a huge geographical and political territory, and not all sectors are aligned in this cause. It is essential that all of society engage in this effort and understand the seriousness of the piracy crimes. Awareness by all citizens and education of the young generations is one the most critical elements of this equation.

Republished with permission from the Inter-American Dialogue's daily Latin America Advisor newsletter.  

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