Mr Clayton NobleMicrosoft has joined with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in recognising World Intellectual Property Day - an event that calls on the IT industry, governments and consumers to speak out about the importance of intellectual property (IP) rights. Strong protections for IP are central to facilitating a culture of innovation that can spur economic growth and create jobs.

Microsoft believes that the global arena needs stronger IP protections and enforcement mechanisms in place to safeguard the ability of individuals and companies alike to innovate and in so doing support business models that create jobs and economic opportunity. Strong IP enforcement levels the playing field for small businesses and supports the Australian taxpayer by ensuring that governments obtain the tax revenue flowing from the legitimate sale of genuine software.

On World Intellectual Property Day, Microsoft encourages the Australian Government and other governments worldwide to look to ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). 

The Australian Government played a key role among the nations negotiating the ACTA.  Importantly, because of Australia’s strong IP protections and enforcement framework, the adoption of the ACTA by Australia is not expected to require changes to current Australian laws or enforcement procedures. 

Australian ratification of the ACTA will however be important as it will help set the international standard for IP law enforcement and establish a set of best practice procedures for other nations to follow.  Australia, along with other parties to the ACTA, would then be able to use international forums such as the WIPO and WTO to encourage other nations with weaker IP protections to meet the ACTA standard.

The Australian Government has said that it “…seeks an enhanced, practical international standard on IPR enforcement with broad international support, to complement the existing international IP architecture. Australia regards the extent to which the ACTA can attract support from countries in our region as one important issue in determining the value of the ACTA for Australia.” 

Microsoft supports this view.  Sound IP enforcement policies can help reduce software piracy and counterfeiting which sap government resources, threaten legitimate businesses and expose consumers to the risks of non-genuine software.  Software counterfeiters tend to thrive in places with weak IP protection. These counterfeiters can have an enormous impact on the global economy.

According to a study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce in 2011, the global economic and social impacts of counterfeiting and piracy will reach $1.7 trillion (U.S.) by 2015 and put 2.5 million legitimate jobs at risk each year. Conversely, the economic rewards for countries that strengthen IP protection and reduce piracy are substantial. According to an economic study by the Business Software Alliance, a reduction in the worldwide piracy rate by 10 percentage points in four years would create $142 billion in new economic activity and add nearly 500,000 new high-tech jobs around the world.

Not only is strong IP protection economically beneficial but consumers expect that the industry and governments will take a stand against non-genuine software. In a 2010 Microsoft-commissioned consumer perception survey of 38,000 consumers in 20 countries, nearly three-quarters of consumers wanted the industry and government to do more to protect them from risks associated with non-genuine software, including identity theft and virus attacks. By a three-to-one margin, consumers agreed that non-genuine software is not as safe to use as genuine software, and respondents named data loss and identity theft among their top concerns.

To help consumers worldwide recognise the value of building a sound IP environment and the ramifications of using non-genuine software, see Microsoft’s stance on IP licensing and laws. More information about genuine Microsoft products, licensing and labels is available here.

Clayton Noble, Attorney, Microsoft Australia