The Swedish economy is built on innovation

Nathan Wajsman is Chief Economist at EUIPO and was one of the keynote speakers at the conference “For a modern intellectual property law” that took place in Stockholm in December 2017. We met him for a conversation on infringement, piracy and the importance of changing attitudes.

How important is IP for the Swedish economy?

– Sweden depends on innovation, which is protected by intellectual property rights. IP-rights, like patents and copyrights are more important in the Swedish economy than in the average economy, and I think that will continue to be the case.

When it comes to counterfeiting and piracy, what are the tendencies?

– It's definitely growing, because the importance and value of brands and IP is growing. Some of the things that makes it easy for legal businesses to get their products or services to the consumer, also makes it easier for the bad guys. One example is counterfeit medicine, that uses the web as a sales channel.

What can be done about it?

– I think a lot of things can be done and are being done. There is strength in IP enforcement, one example is the operations by Europol. We at EUIPO are doing our small part in financing the IPC3 (Intellectual Property Crime Coordination Centre) at Europol.

What about people's attitudes towards piracy and counterfeit?

– The idea that artists deserve to be paid for their work and that innovators deserve to be rewarded for their innovations, really has to be engraved, starting with the young people.
– Changing people's attitudes is a lengthy process. People can in the abstract like something, but will often find an excuse to violate it. Take drunk driving, for instance. If you ask the average person if they think it's ok to drive drunk, they'll say no. But if they're at a party and have a drink or two, maybe they'll drive anyway.

"Artists deserve to be paid for their work and that innovators deserve to be rewarded for their innovations."

Films and series are easy targets of illegal streaming and piracy.

– Yes, and that's why it's important with the availability of good, legal alternatives. Music is a good example. With Spotify, people are willing to pay for music, it's not an issue anymore.
– With films and series, it's different. Many consumers don't accept the fact that they can't get a hold of everything because of licensing and IP-rights, and instead choose to get around it.

"It's important with the availability of good, legal alternatives."

Is it a matter of public ignorance, do you think?

– Yes. Many consumers are not even aware of the legal offers at hand. We are working on a pan-European portal that points the consumers to the legal offers in their country, called Agorateka. We're at the first step now, getting all the countries on board. The next step is making it a good, searchable tool, so that consumers can search the title of a film and find it legally. That's the vision.