Intellectual Property Rights And The Air Cargo Industry
Goods that infringe intellectual property rights (“IPR infringing goods”) account for a growing portion of international trade, and present challenges for air cargo operators in many markets. The OECD has estimated that over $250 billion in IPR infringing goods move across borders each year (excluding intra-country activities or online infringements). Intermediaries, such as air cargo operators, in the supply chain of IPR infringing goods have a role in helping to combat this global problem, along with rights holders and customs and other authorities. However, the role of intermediaries such as those in the air cargo industry should be distinct from that of the actual infringers or traders in such goods.
The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) condemns the infringement of intellectual property rights. Such infringements can produce not only economic losses to businesses, consumers, and governments but, more importantly, can pose threats to health and safety. The recently released Report on EU Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights noted that in 2014, IPR infringing items with health and safety concerns accounted for 28.6% of total detained goods.
TIACA recognizes the complexity of this problem, and that multiple players and factors contribute to this issue. As such, the solution to this problem in global trade, and regarding the appropriate role of air cargo operators, also require multifaceted solutions involving the cooperation of multiple players. In particular, the air cargo industry should be recognized as one piece in a three-pronged approach to combatting IPR infringement that necessarily also involves the participation of rights holders and customs authorities.
TIACA appreciates that regulators and right holders are seeking to strengthen and enforce the legal rights provided to intellectual property owners. In doing so, TIACA believes the following principles should apply to the role of intermediaries such as our members:
Role of Air Cargo Industry Members
- Regulators and rights holders should recognize that air cargo industry members also are detrimentally affected by IPR infringing traders.
- Regulators and rights holders should recognize that air cargo industry members consistently cooperate with law enforcement agencies and assist in the interdiction of counterfeit shipments and in investigations of illicit trade. This cooperation with law enforcement accounts in part for the increases in seizures by government agencies, particularly in the United States. However, this partnership with government agencies is successful only because the participating government agencies recognize that air cargo industry members are not law enforcement agencies and should not be expected to do the job of law enforcement agencies. That is a role reserved for the appropriate authorities.
- To continue this partnership between rights holders, regulators, and air cargo industry members, any potential liability for air cargo industry members should be limited to instances where air cargo operators have actual knowledge of receiving or handling IPR infringing goods, and on a failure of air cargo industry members to take action based on such knowledge.
- Rights holders, regulators, and air cargo industry members should work together to learn more about the global supply chain and develop educational programs for consumers and law enforcement to assist in the recognition of illicit trade.
- The best way to find comprehensive solutions to the IPR infringement problem is to bring rights holders, regulators, and service providers together for a working dialog. Since customs administrations are responsible for enforcement at borders, we suggest customs take the leading role in bringing these groups together. Examples of potential solutions include the sharing of information between the three parties and account-based clearances built on trusted trader programs.
- Customs agencies should explicitly acknowledge the cooperation of the air cargo industry members when touting their seizure numbers, as an effort to encourage partnership by service providers, discourage infringing traders, and demonstrate the constructive role that air cargo industry members are playing in combatting the abuse of the air cargo supply chain by IPR violators.