Remarks by Chargé de Affairs Eric Kneedler at the regional Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) training event in Mombasa
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Greetings colleagues. I’m very pleased for the opportunity to be with you today in the spirit of multinational cooperation and to celebrate your accomplishments.
The United States government is working hard to help create a more prosperous and secure East Africa by boosting trade, helping keep Africans healthy and supporting security efforts. But we can only accomplish these efforts by working together with our partners. The best results in law enforcement are always the result of the coordination among multiple law enforcement agencies. But such coordination requires careful training and preparation in advance, which is why we are here today. In order to bring criminals to justice, we need to learn from each other’s experiences to improve our ability to conduct investigations and operations. Each of you brings unique skills and expertise that make our regional law enforcement efforts more effective.
Intellectual Property Rights are an international law enforcement challenge. Virtually every industry relies upon and supports intellectual property rights, especially small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), which represent many new businesses here in Kenya and worldwide. Intellectual property rights support hundreds of millions of jobs around the world and are critical to the economic stability of individual nations and the international community. We all benefit from honesty and integrity in all aspects of our lives – and we invariably suffer when these virtues are absent from commerce.
When counterfeiting, piracy and theft of intellectual property are allowed, we are all damaged; lawful commerce is undermined, rule of law is eroded, and innocent people are compromised. A society cannot succeed if criminals are allowed to violate laws without consequence. Counterfeit goods frustrate economic development and create a public safety issue due to unsafe products that include pharmaceuticals, foods, electrical components, and other consumer goods. Counterfeit goods not only harm legitimate businesses, they have social effects as well, and often create substantial health and safety issues.
- Counterfeit medicines can be deadly;
- Counterfeit clothing can be flammable;
- Counterfeit auto parts may not protect passengers from crashes; and
- Counterfeit pesticides can contain toxic substances that threaten water supplies.
Counterfeit and pirated goods are also a significant threat to innovation. Piracy and counterfeiting hurt local intellectual property right holders and damage legitimate local producers, retailers, and distributors. Local businesses can’t compete with pirated and counterfeit works. This results in job losses and increased prices in the market.
The production of counterfeit goods often relies on forced and/or child labor and is nearly always linked to other organized criminal activity. The illicit profits from sales of counterfeit goods in some cases strengthens transnational criminal enterprises, as well as terrorist organizations. The financial damage wrought by these nefarious organizations is immense and costs us greatly. We cannot allow those who would do us harm to abuse and destroy the economic means we rely on to sustain our families and build our communities.
For these reasons, the United States Government actively seeks to partner with other countries and the private sector to develop anti-counterfeiting strategies that protect public welfare, support innovation, and advance economic growth. These efforts are especially important in East African countries given their access to international shipping routes and their leadership in regional economic development. As we combine our efforts and bring our authorities to bear in a coordinated effort, we can and will identify and stop counterfeiting, piracy, and intellectual property theft.
I commend your efforts and your dedication to your respective countries and to the international community and for the work you have accomplished in this important training. The investigation of intellectual property rights violations is a complex matter and requires concerted joint efforts. Your willingness to be here this week demonstrates your professionalism and dedication to this cause.
Ambassador Kyle McCarter’s motto for Kenya and the United States is “marafiki” – or “friends.” We will all continue to work together, as friends, toward a shared prosperity and security for East Africa.