Israel Remains of Special 301 Priority Watch List

Once again, Israel is ranked in the leading countries threatening US industries by Intellectual Property Infringement, but is in good company since Canada has now joined this elite group as well.

For a copy of the report see:

http://www.iipa.com/rbc/2009/2009SPEC301ISRAEL.pdf

At the root of the criticism is that Israel does not conform her IP Laws to serve US interests, but why should she?

Israel is criticized for not forcing ISPs to block illegal downloads, despite not being party to either treaty requiring this.

The IIPA is interested in promoting US industrial interests. One area of criticism is the relative difficulty for patent holders to get patent term extensions. Israel is a Bolar country and does provide patent term extensions. It merely does not provide such extensions beyond those available from other Bolar countries, thereby not disadvantaging TEVA over other generic manufacturers. This policy certainly serves the interest of Israeli industry, but US IP law serves the interest of US industry as well.

The report correctly pointed out that there are bootleg software packages and music DVDs available in street markets in Tel Aviv and Haifa. It appears that these are manufactured in small workshops in basements, etc. and backed by organized crime. The Israel Police unit for fighting IP crime is under-funded according to the report, and the police should be more pro-active in taking high profile infringement cases to the courts instead of relying on defendants.

 I am not sure that I agree. IP infringement is essentially a property issue and is for injured parties to sue.  If the police and government pour more resources into solving violent crime, clamping down on drug dealers and on traffic law enforcement, maybe their priorities are right?  I’ve witnessed the Israel police break in to an apartment where DVDs were being copied illegally. They do follow leads and bring people to justice. Should the punishment be incarceration for ever? In all areas of the world where there are high profits to be made by illegal activity, organized crime proliferates. The problem in Israel is no different than elsewhere. Maybe the US heavy handed approach is wrong and education is the answer. I use kosher software and don’t download music clips illegally and try to prevent my kids from so doing.

On the other hand, Google is making books available to all and sundry. Just because the US feels that Micky Mouse should be copyright for ever, it is not clear that the Sonny Bono amendment is a balanced approach to a complex problem. Fellow Blogger, Professor Michael Geist of Canada had a good article in the UK recently: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8033382.stm

TEVA’s commercial success makes the US look very carefully at Knesset legislation for drug patent term extension. Teva’s commercial interests and those of US companies with drugs to come off patent are not the same. But both the US and Israel agree that pharmaceuticals should be patent protectable and that the regular 20 year term is insufficient to guarantee the sort of return on investment to make developing new drugs feasible. Both agree that preventing drug manufacturers from maintaining monopoly profits for ever stifles research and development. Both see the need for balance. Israel allows a five year extension. Yes, it is true that the amended law was corrected a few years back to remove an ambiguity that caused then Acting Commissioner of Patents, Israel Axelrod to give more protection to drug manufacturers than the Knesset thought warranted. This merely shows that Israel is acting responsibly and is trying to find a fair balance in a complex issue; looking at how best to ensure improvement in medicine and affordable drugs for the sick. Juggling conflicting interests is not easy, and there will inevitably be differences in perspective between the US and Israel, that reflect the difference in size of the population, the income level and demographics of the population. The US should concentrate on bringing their IP system into line with the rest of the world rather than bullying other countries to accept their standards.

Most objective rankings of IP related issues puts Israel at about 9th in the world. Not bad considering her size. 

So why is Israel singled out? Antisemitism? – probably part of it. Why should IP be different from any other form of International Relations? Israel is subject to double standards, and should be used to it.

There was, however, legitimate criticism of a Tel Aviv judge’s ruling re live sporting events, which went against the Supreme Court’s Tele-Event Decision, but that was an isolated incident of a judge misinterpreting the New Copyright Law. It is a good argument for better IP training for judges or perhaps for special IP Courts; it reflects a need to criticize the judge but is hardly justification for special criticism of the country. Not all court rulings are correct. That is what appeals are for.

One good sign, it appears that Israel may be relegated to the second division next year, to the Watch List from the Special Watch List.

Perhaps, the US should reconsider their own fair use laws regarding radio broadcasts and music played in places of entertainment. Perhaps copyright terms are simply too long? Why should orphan works be copyright for 120 years? Maybe it is about time that the Us conforms their patent system to that of the rest of the world.

Perhaps Israel should simply ignore US criticism. Maybe we should start our own US Watch List?



Categories: Intellectual Property, Israel, Israel Copyright, News, Opinion, Uncategorized

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