Israel Intensifying Fight Against 'Intellectual Property' Offenders

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel has accepted a US decision to keep the country on its priority watch list of intellectual property rights offenders and says it is intensifying its struggle to cut down on violations.

US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky this week announced the results of the annual review of US trading partners.

Israel will remain on the priority watch list of countries with "very serious intellectual property problems in terms of scope and/or impact on US commerce, requiring the focus of increased bilateral attention on the problem areas," a US Embassy press release said.

The review took note of the fact that Israel enacted legislation at the beginning of the year to bring Israeli laws on intellectual property rights up to international standards and had "invested additional resources into combating widespread copyright infringement."

Despite this progress, it said, Israel remained a "key distribution hub in a multi-country network (including Western Europe and Russia) for pirated optical media products, much of which is still manufactured in Israel."

Israel has been labeled one of the worst offenders worldwide in the violation of intellectual property rights and, in the past, has been threatened with a $145 million in US fines if it did not move toward correcting the abuses.

Audio and video duplications are the most serious counterfeiting problems in Israel.

Minister of Industry and Trade Ran Cohen expressed his satisfaction with the decision of the US administration to maintain Israel's current "inadequate" status on the priority watch list, an Industry and Trade statement said.

"The decision is important given that certain sectors in the American economy lobbied to worsen Israel's rating on this matter," it said.

"The decision avoids a serious dispute with the United States at this time that could have resulted in the imposition of economic sanctions against Israel," the statement added.

Cohen pointed out that the US confirmed that Israel is making efforts to correct the infringements and that those corrections are "beginning to bear fruit."

The Cohen spokesman's office told that the government had continued to exert its efforts toward correcting the abuses and apprehending violators.

Among the steps taken are tougher punishments for offenders, the creation of a special police unit to deal with these crimes, and the improvement of intelligence gathering and surveillance of the industry.

The spokesman said Cohen had warned factory and business owners who receive grants and funding from the ministry that they will be obliged to return any aid they received if they are found with forged materials.

The ministry's director-general, Reuven Horesh, said the US decision gives Israel the time it needs to fully implement its laws in accordance with international treaties.

Horesh agreed with the US assessment that, although progress had been made, the situation was still not "satisfactory." Israel was intensifying its efforts improve legislation and law enforcement in this area, he added.