The government of Tanzania got an American pat on the back in recognition of its efforts to fight intellectual property theft according to a recent piece entitled Tanzania: U.S. Hails Region’s Fight Against Counterfeited Trade. Here are some details of the statement by the US ambassador to Tanzania:

THE United States has commended the Eastern African member states for their commitment to improve legislations and mechanisms and promote regional cooperation to fight illicit trade and counterfeiting practices.

The US ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Alfonso Lenhardt said in Dar es Salaam today that fighting counterfeiting and piracy requires the concerted efforts within countries, regions and among global trading partners.

He was opening the Anti-Counterfeiting workshop that included experts from the US and other representatives from the Intellectual Property Rights enforcement authorities in the Eastern African region.

“We have been impressed over the last few years to see East African Community member countries and the EAC itself making strides to improve laws and mechanisms, increase resources and promote regional cooperation to fight the vice,” he said.

The Director of Compliance in the Fair Competition Commission (FCC), Mr Gregory Ndanu, offered some thoughts on the efforts of Tanzania to increase its enforcement of IP protection laws and had this to add:

He said more enforcement was needed for institutions to strongly prosecute perpetrators of counterfeits as well as strong Parliaments, honest police and customs officers, independent adjustors and journalists, vibrant private sector and civil societies.

He said the FCC’s measures of destroying counterfeit products have helped drive sharp message to importers of counterfeit products.

“We have destroyed counterfeit goods worth more than 3bn/- since May 2007 and that has brought more attention to people over the products and illicit practices,” he said.

 That’s a lot of fake CDs and copied software programs, for sure. Look for Tanzania to continue its bid to show the world they are serious about protecting the intellectual property of companies foreign and domestic who are helping the country move into a more modern and commercialized mode of business.

The Hill – Hillicon Valley: Microsoft founder Bill Gates took a tough stance on intellectual property theft in China during a recent visit to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Alexander Bolton reports:

Microsoft has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in China because of law protections for copyrights and patents, straining its relationship with the emerging economic superpower.

“They have work to do in terms of obeying copyright laws,” Gates told The Hill during a visit to Capitol Hill.

“They themselves are creating copyrights and patents and things like that and they have artists, scientists and writers so I think over time they will get better on this issue,” said Gates. “Certainly, on some of the software copyright things the level of enforcement is quite weak.”

China’s reputation as a safe harbor for product pirates and flaunters of international IP protections hasn’t changed much, mostly because, well, things haven’t changed much. Bolton explains: “Bootleg copies of Microsoft software have flooded the Chinese markets, including copies of Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system. Reuters reported in October that copies of the new operating software were selling for about $3 in local Chinese markets — compared to more than $300 in Western markets.” To find out how Microsoft is hoping to influence and further protect their software programs in China, be sure to read Bolton’s complete piece, Microsoft’s Bill Gates criticizes China for not protecting intellectual property.

What I Couldn’t Say…: Jonathan Schwartz, ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems, has taken it upon himself to enlighten the SUN faithful about all the things he couldn’t say while steering the corporate ship but now suddenly feels free to disclose. And, in keeping with this newfound straight-forwardness, Schwartz’s recent post, Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal, he tells how two tech giants tried to use patent blackmail to extract royaly fees from him, but mostly failed. From the piece:

I understand the value of patents – offensively and, more importantly, for defensive purposes. Sun had a treasure trove of some of the internet’s most valuable patents – ranging from search to microelectronics – so no one in the technology industry could come after us without fearing an expensive counter assault. And there’s no defense like an obvious offense.

But for a technology company, going on offense with software patents seems like an act of desperation, relying on the courts instead of the marketplace. See Nokia’s suit against Apple for a parallel example of frivolous litigation – it hasn’t slowed iPhone momentum (I’d argue it accelerated it). So I wonder who will be first to claim Apple’s iPad is stepping on their IP… perhaps those that own the carcass of the tablet computing pioneer Go Corp.? Except that would be AT&T. Hm.

Apple and Microsoft play large in Schwartz’ story, as both companies approached him and then not-so-subtly informed him that he was infringing on their patents and that they would call off the legal dogs if he would pay a licensing fee. To which Schwartz replied that both of those companies were infringing on patents owned by Sun. Kind of sounds like a Cold War to me. Both companies eventually faded out of the Sun’s legal picture but that was not the end of the story. Find out the rest by reading the rest of Schwartz’ insider tale via the piece linked above. Looks like the good folks across the big pond are sick and tired of the secrecy surrounding ACTA and its ‘3 strikes you’re out’ provision and they’re not gonna take it any more. Nate Anderson has details for the gentle reader in his topical piece, European Parliament unites against 3 strikes, ACTA secrecy:

The European Parliament is fed up with the secrecy surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Today, representatives from all the major parliamentary coalitions introduced a resolution demanding that the European Commission release all negotiating texts, inform Parliament about the negotiating process, and absolutely refuse to countenance any sort of “three strikes” Internet disconnection penalty for online copyright infringement.

The measure comes up for a vote tomorrow and looks set to pass—it has the support of all the important groups in Parliament, including the EPP, S&D, ALDE, and the Greens/EFA. One notable supporter: Christian Engström, the Pirate Party’s lone MEP in Parliament, who aligns with the Greens/EFA group.

The Parliament’s move might be just a bluff, but should the European Commission decides to not cooperate with the many requests by the EP for further information, things just might get a little nasty. “If the Commission refuses to involve Parliament, a ‘no’ vote might be the eventual result of two years of negotiating work.” Reminds me of a certain tactic in American politics that might eventually be known as “pulling a Leahy.”

The United States Trademark and Patent Office: The US and UK are penning a joint agreement “for reducing patent processing backlogs” according to a recent press release with the appropriate title, “USPTO and UKIPO Announce Action Plan to Reduce Global Patent Backlogs“. 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) today agreed to develop an action plan for reducing patent processing backlogs in both offices.  Patent backlogs hinder the deployment of innovation and have clear adverse effects on the global economy. According to a study by London Economics released on behalf of the UKIPO, the first study that attempts to quantify the economic impact of patent backlogs, the cost to the global economy of the delay in processing patent applications may be as much as £7.65 ($11.4) billion each year.

The announcement comes after a UKIPO-sponsored study revealed that “patent processing delays prevent high-tech businesses such as telecommunications, aviation and engineering sectors from getting to market as quickly as they otherwise could. This results in a loss of competitiveness, delays in R&D and an overall reduction in the incentive to create and innovate.” Why the conclusion of the study comes as a surprise to those in patent power is beyond your humble author but at least this effort might get the ball rolling on reducing patent pendency on both sides of the big pond.

Bonus IP piece o’ the day: 7 States Probe Monsanto for Anti-Competitive Business Practices by Drea at