The Liberia Industry Property (LIPO) in collaboration with the Liberia Copyright Office celebrated the World Intellectual Property day in Monrovia.
The event was held under the theme, ‘Stand up for IP protection in Liberia’ last Monday at Friends of Friends Haitai Association (FOFHA). It brought together nearly 100 participants from both public and private sectors.
The event, according to LIPO Acting Officer-In-Charge, Prince Decker, was the first of its kind in Liberia and that Intellectual property (IP) is the creation of minds, inventions, literary and artistic works as well as symbols, names and images used in commerce.
He added that the progress and wellbeing of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in technology and culture.
“And the legal protection of new creation encourages additional commitment of resources for further invention, promotion of intellectual property, economic growth which enhances quality of life,” he said.
He disclosed that because of lack of information to the public about IP there counterfeiting and piracy have increased in the country.
He said, “We’ve decided to take IP to the people to discourage them about buying pirated works that are usually 10 disks in one, and have taking over our market.
“We know that it is the responsibility of LIPO to stop counterfeiting and piracy, but direct success can’t be achieved if the people don’t give their full support.”
According to him, LIPO is encouraging inventors to use its office to get their patent, trademark, industrial design to help protect their invention, and avoid being deprived from their just benefits.
“LIPO remains committed to enforce industrial property regulations, and protect the rights of holders.”
Mr. Moses D. Nyepan LIPO Director for Research and Development said, “Stealing intellectual property is a serious threat to all Liberian businesses. Exporters face unfair competition abroad, non exporters face counterfeit imports at home and all businesses face legal, health and safety risks from the threat of counterfeit goods and pirated works in Liberia.”
He stated further that the lack of expertise and information to the public leads to IP theft risks to all sectors, especially ideas and invention in Liberia.
“It is still a problem to determine the exact scope of the increase in IP theft,” Mr. Nyepan said. “Our observation indicates that copyright piracy, trademark, counterfeiting, and patent infringement in the country need citizens’ support to root them out,” he said.
He noted that without protection for inventors’ ideas, there could be less research and creative talents will suffer.
Four collective society groups were invited, including the Movie Union of Liberia, Liberia Gospel Musicians, Liberia Business Association and the Musicians Union of Liberia. However, only the Musician Union of Liberia sent representative.
Most of the participants at the program were LIPO employees. Surprisingly there were no representatives from the Liberia Copyright Office.
Also there was no representation from the Ministry of Finance, Development and Planning, Ministry of Justice, Liberia Revenue Authority and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the lines ministries and agencies that collaborate with LIPO in it work.
“It is shameful that there was no government official here to grace this celebration, but this not a surprise since it is not a political rally,” Said Tony Karbedeh, representing the Musicians’ Union of Liberia.
He added, “We will continue to lobby our officials to do what is their due diligent to help eradicate piracy, counterfeiting and many of these things that are slowly killing inventors.”
Karbedeh said the only means to push relevant government officials to do the right thing is for collective society to unite with a common focus.
“It’s very sad to know that collective society is poorly represented as we celebrate this day and this is a sign of disservice to the fight against piracy and counterfeit,” Atty. Allen Gweh, president of FOFHA said.
He also said people should not assume that lawyers don’t have knowledge on copyright issue, “it is the responsibility of inventors to get legal counsel prior to the release of their work.”
He stated that most inventors in Liberia don’t have lawyers to fight for them, “if their works are pirated or counterfeited which has given the criminals the opportunity to get rich.”