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(photo credit: Courtesy)
As advances in technology make it increasingly difficult to slow the spread of intellectual property theft, leading to an estimated NIS 2 billion in annual damages in Israel, industry leaders at Wednesday's Intellectual Property Forum called on the government to begin working toward stamping out the illegal activity.
"There should be a uniform policy in terms of protecting intellectual property like there is in the US, the UK and Japan," Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, which encompasses the Israeli Intellectual Property Forum, told The Jerusalem Post. "A national policy needs to be formed. Then a national council that will enforce the policy needs to organized. However, from the side of the government, there is no movement to organize such a council. The government at this moment has no real plans to get involved in this movement."
Last week, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said he would set up a committee to explore the possibility of creating an intellectual property law in Israel.
According to statistics provided by the FICC, although intellectual property damages have not significantly increased over the last few years, on average, damages of NIS 1.2b. in the pharmaceutical industry, NIS 400 million in the software sector, NIS 170m. in the motion picture industry and NIS 50m. in the music sector have been recorded.
"The pharmaceutical industry around the world has embraced certain intellectual property standards, and this is something that we are lacking in Israel," said Guy Guretzky, director-general of Pharma Israel.
Pharma Israel is the association of the Israeli subsidiaries of multinational companies. It is dedicated to protecting the companies' intellectual property rights and to creating the proper environment to attract more research and development funds.
"We need to create a long term plan and coordinate it properly among the different agencies, or else we will continue to be hurt by intellectual property damages," Guretzky said.
The country's generic pharmaceutical manufacturers, however, lashed out against Yishai's proposal on Wednesday, claiming that the law also would extend the market exclusivity rights of multinational pharmaceutical companies. Under current regulations, generic drug makers cannot enter the market for approximately four-and-a-half years after the original drug was introduced.
"Eli Yishai is just acting because of the pressure that is being put on him by the US to pass a law like this," Zevulun Tomer, director-general of Unipharm Generic Manufacturers, told the Post Wednesday. "This will delay our entering the local market sooner and it will force the Israeli public to pay more for the original drugs and it will hurt our exports, as well," he said.
Yishai responded by saying the establishment of the committee would provide the ministry with an opportunity to enter into dialogue with the companies and to hear their requests.
"We have not concluded anything and we won't make any final decisions until all the relevant factors, including from the manufacturers, are taken into consideration," he said.
Joseph Cedar, director of the critically acclaimed film Beaufort, decried the lack of progress in stopping intellectual property theft.
"We are talking about my living and my ability to support my family through what I do," he told the Post. "It's hard to give figures about how many people do this, but within three weeks of the film's release, it was on-line and was viewed by tens of thousands of people. It's hard to say how many of these people would have purchased tickets to see the film, but watching your work taken away from you is devastating."
While Cedar admits that it is impossible to put an end to the advancements in technology that make it easier to pirate films, he doesn't know why Israel, a world-technology leader, has not taken greater strides in combatting this ever-growing phenomenon.
"The fact is, is that people are listening to music and watching movies differently, but what we need to do is find a way to recoup some of the money," Cedar said. "In Israel, we have a country that is at the front in terms of technological abilities to steal music and movies, but not at the front in terms of developing ways to protect those who are being damaged."
In addition to protecting businesses, Lynn said reducing intellectual property theft is important for Israel in order to gain admittance to the OECD, something he called a "must" for the country.
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