The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) has begun its first ever nationwide awareness aimed at helping copyright holders, the police, custom officers and the general public to understand the IP law.
The awareness, held separately at the US Embassy in Monrovia and the headquarters of the Liberia National Police (LNP), brought together over 100 participants from diverse backgrounds, including copyright holders, who were educated in the 2016 IP law, the process of filing in applications and its benefits in a bid to reduce the number of infringements.
Prince Decker, the agency’s acting officer in charge, explained that after a month-long internal review of its past activities, they came to the conclusion that the lack of public awareness has created a challenge for the enforcement of existing legislations.
“We realized that in the absence of awareness, we cannot create an environment of protecting artists’ and innovators’ work and helping them derive benefits.
“Creating awareness in order for the public and the copyright holders to understand the law is critical to the future development of the country’s creative industries. Once awareness is created and the people are educated about the IP law, it is easy to intensify copyright enforcement and anti-piracy activities.
“The core objective of this awareness is to educate copyright holders, the police, custom officers and the general public about the law so as to minimize piracy levels and provide an environment conducive to the growth of legitimate copyright industries in the country and also through their help when it comes to enforcing the law,” Mr. Decker said.
The move by LIPO under the administration of Mr. Decker, who is also the register general, has been hailed by stakeholders in the IP industry, because over the last decade there has been no public awareness to help people understand past or new IP laws; thereby making the law readily inaccessible.
This means an average man on the street who is ignorant of the IP law is either in the regular habit of purchasing pirated work or committing some form of piracy, mostly unintentional; thus making the sale of pirated works worth millions of dollars.
Mr. Decker disclosed that over the last few years, LIPO have witnessed a continued decline in local application for copyright and industrial designs protection; that those who infringe on IP rights, such as traders who sell pirated materials, infringed on the law unintentionally because they lack knowledge about the law and the institution.
“The only way to stop this is through adequate awareness that will lead to the creation of an environment in which the rights of creators are respected and the reduction in infringement of IP rights. Therefore, we are committed to the protection and enforcement of the IP laws and policies that are increasingly important in today’s global economy, both to foster innovation and, more importantly, to protect consumers,” Mr. Decker added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Decker added they are working out mechanisms to forge a close relationship and cooperation with the police and custom officers across the country, to ensure the tracking down and seizing of goods that are not in compliance with copyright laws at all entry ports of the country, and the safety of LIPO’s unarmed copyright Inspectors during anti-piracy raids.