Stiffer laws in combating counterfeiting and piracy

shirley_ayorkor_botchwey_-_new_photo_2.jpgPresident John Agyekum Kufuor has expressed government’s determination
to ensure that stiffer laws are enacted to make counterfeiting and
piracy crimes as offensive as drug trafficking and punish offenders as
such.

He
said government was poised to make Ghana a no-go zone for counterfeits
and would ensure that special courts were established if necessary to
hear cases involving the manufacture, distribution and sale of
counterfeit or pirated products.

“This insidious crime of
product counterfeiting has become a global phenomenon; it’s no longer
the canker of the under-developed or developing world. The developed
world is also battling with counterfeiting products albeit at a scale
lower than in our part of the world,” he said.

The
President made this known in a speech read for him by Mr. Kwadwo
Mpiani, Chief of Staff, at the opening a two-day National Dialogue on
Counterfeit Products in Accra for stakeholders.

The
dialogue, the first to be organized by the Food and Drugs Board (FDB)
in collaboration with European Union (EU) and the Institute of
Packaging, Ghana, is on “Protecting the Consumer against counterfeit
products through Inter-Agency and Regional collaboration”.

President
Kufuor noted that government was worried not only of the threat to
human life but also the fact that counterfeit products denied genuine
products of the rightful market share, costing governments significant
amounts in lost tax revenues as well as threatening jobs and creating
lack of consumer confidence in products.

According to the
European Commission, counterfeiting and piracy cost the EU eight
billion euros a year in lost economic output between 1998 and 2001.

“We
can no longer ignore this activity whereby certain unscrupulous
individuals and criminal gangs produce counterfeit medicines and
medical devices which risk the lives of people, or as in the reported
case in China a few years ago involving dummy milk formula for babies
in which several children died.”

President Kufuor urged
the meeting to make appropriate recommendations to government on
policies and strategies to curb counterfeiting and piracy and develop
strategies to overcome the major challenges confronting the nation,
which he described as coordination of the activities of the different
agencies in this area.

Health Minister Major Courage
Quashigah (Rtd) said the counterfeit menace was worrying and its impact
was enormous, adding that, counterfeiters deterred honest manufacturers
from investing resources in new products.

He said various
medicines, food and beverages, cosmetics and medical devices such as
condoms were being counterfeited and noted that though scientific data
was very scanty, efforts at fighting the menace needed to be more
proactive.

Product counterfeiting, he said, hit everyone
hard in the pocket and only the faceless persons behind the crime
benefited, while legitimate businesses collapsed and many people also
lost their lives.

“The magnitude of the problem caused by
counterfeiting requires strong and sustained action from all
stakeholders including businesses and consumers,” he said.

Government,
the Minister noted, was therefore committed to mobilizing resources to
protect intellectual property and said that Ghana had a high stake in
optimizing the use of intellectual property to protect the national
knowledge, inventions and creativity.

He commended the role
of neighbouring countries represented at the meeting and called for
increased inter-agency cooperation at the national and sub-region
levels and said it would enhance collective action against the heinous
crime.

Miss. Shirley Ayokor Botchway, Deputy Minister,
Trade, Presidential Special Initiatives and Private Sector Development
said issues of intellectual property could not be overemphasized and
that government would continue to wilfully support activities of
regulatory, security and stakeholder agencies that were committed to
fighting the crime.

She said the worrying nature of the
crime was that consumers were increasingly being put at the risk of
harm and death from unsafe and ineffective products which were exported
through complex distribution channels before getting to the consumers.

She
therefore called for a concerted effort to fight the crime and put in
place quick decisive and punitive measures needed to bring rampant
counterfeiting and piracy activities down.

Mr. Emmanuel
Kyeremanteng Agyarko, Chief Executive Officer of FDB, said the fight
against counterfeiting and piracy could only be successful if
stakeholders, including the consumer worked closely in a coordinated
manner and across borders with the aim of “dismantling the modus
operandi of the criminal gangs behind counterfeiting”.

He
noted that, it was time to get tough and deal decisively with the
rip-off-artists and make them pay for the harm and pain inflicted on
consumers and the economies of various countries.

Mr
Agyarko urged participants to ensure that various options should be
deployed to make markets better secured from counterfeits products.

Source: GNA