Want to buy an expensive Swiss watch? Not everyone can afford a real one-a Patek Philippe timepiece can be worth many thousands of dollars, and some very exclusive makes, such as a Vacheron Constantin, can cost over a million! Still, you may have found a convincing lookalike in some market on your travels: the genuine item is made of several hundred parts and would have taken many thousands of hours of costly research and development to make, but this imitation seems to work well, and it looks smart. You shrug your shoulders and buy it, because “anyway, counterfeiting is a harmless activity!” But what if the airplane you were about to board had been repaired with counterfeit airplane parts: How smart would you feel then?
The OECD have joined the IP fundamentalists. Or so it seems. The OECD Observer is always worth a read, but last month I was dismayed to read the above para as the opening salvo in an OECD Observer piece on counterfeiting. Well, I can’t argue that breaking the law isn’t a bad thing. I can’t argue that counterfeiting airline parts isn’t a very bad thing.
But lumping buying watches that you know are fakes with counterfeiting airline parts seems pretty silly. But in the whole of the article there’s no sense that – as I argued a while back – there is really only a case for laws to prevent sellers deceiving buyers. That covers the counterfeiting of airline parts, and would leave the Patek Philippe ‘timepiece’ manufacturers free to ply their trade so long as the timepieces came with a clear disclaimer. “This ‘timepiece’ – known colloquially as a watch by the way – is not an authorised product of Patek Philippe”.