Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Bigger budget for copyright watchdog
published: Monday | April 7, 2003
Jamaica Gleaner

By Lynford Simpson, Staff Reporter

THE GOVERNMENT has signalled its intention to continue updating the country's intellectual property laws by increasing the funding for the administration of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), which falls under the Commerce, Science and Technology Ministry.

Of the roughly $1.7 billion allocated to the Ministry in the 2003/04 Estimates of Expenditure, $27.143 million has been set aside to deal with intellectual property rights issues. This is just over $4 million more than the $23 million in the revised estimates for 2002/03.

The money is being provided for the administration and management of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO).

Last April, Jamaica, along with 49 other nations and the European Union, was placed on the 'Special 301 Watch List' by the United States. They were accused of "not doing enough" to halt the piracy of U.S. movies, music and other copyrighted material.

In defending the United States Government, Orna Blum, Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy explained then that Jamaica's placement on the list was "motivated primarily by the current lack of a modern patent law to provide protection for innovative products and processes".

She noted in a letter to the editor that new copyright and trademark laws were drafted and approved in 1999 but that amendments to the Patent Act that could protect both Jamaica and US investors had not been considered by Parliament.

Jamaica, during the Uruguay Round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), committed to modernising its entire intellectual property rights system including copyright, trademark and patent by January 1, 2000.

In February this year, Natalie Wilmot, manager of copyright and related rights at JIPO, disclosed that her office was seeking to secure a new Design and Patent Act to replace the current Act of 1857.

In August 2000, there was a partial cable blackout as local providers were forced to remove dozens of the channels they offer, but for which they had no legal access. The channels were removed following mounting pressure from United States-based companies which had threatened action over the illegal showing of material in breach of intellectual property rights. Also, Jamaica was at risk of being penalised, particularly in the area of trade, because of the actions of the cable providers.

The budgetary allocation aside, JIPO is expected to earn revenue primarily from fees obtained through patent applications, sale of publications, and utilisation of intellectual property documentation.

A breakdown of the $27 million allocation shows that $18.62 million will be spent to compensate employees; $1.5 million for travel expenses and subsistence; $3.5 million for rental of property, machinery and equipment and just over $1 million for public utility services.

The programme deals with the implementation of laws on intellectual property rights and public education regarding the intellectual property laws.