The Pacific Forum is on this week in the Marshall Islands to review important issues such as climate change, economic governance, and democracy. It is possible the talks could turn to intellectual property, but any developments in this area are unlikely to unfold despite many of the Pacific Islands countries offering out-of-date or no intellectual property protection.
As we all know, the Pacific region is a haven for tourists, with almost every island dependent on the tourist dollar to boost its own GDP. Those tourists enjoy the clear oceans, blue skies, golden sands, and warm weather, but are often plagued by counterfeit products while spending their much valued dollars.
My recent visit to Fiji was no exception, and it reminded me of the large amount of counterfeit product still distributed in this part of the world.
The Pacific region is quickly becoming a hub for counterfeit goods because the costs of manufacturing are low, there is a general lack of resources available for enforcement, and in some cases, corruption. We often find that counterfeit clothing imported to New Zealand and Australia, is regularly manufactured in Fiji.
So what can IP owners do to stop this activity?
In Fiji, there are no mechanisms to stop counterfeit product bearing trade marks entering the country.
Therefore, it is still important to register your trade marks where possible, because trade mark protection is the only protection available to a trade mark owner in Fiji.
Interestingly though, there is a Copyright Enforcement Unit within the Fijian Intellectual Property Office that can help with stopping the importation and distribution of products that infringe copyright.
Fijian's copyright legislation is fairly recent (1999) compared with the Trade Marks Act, which was last updated in 1978, and Section 35 specifically prevents the importation of infringing copies into Fiji.
The process for registration with the Copyright Enforcement Unit is relatively straight forward, and simply a matter of submitting a complaint. Of course, the more information a copyright owner can provide, the better.
If you are experiencing any difficulties with counterfeit products in Fiji, we recommend you consider lodging a complaint with the Copyright Enforcement Unit.