When In Doubt, Blame Terrorists: Patent Attorney Claims Terrorists Are Infringing And Killing Jobs

from the oh-really-now? dept

For many years now we've had fun pointing out the ridiculous claims of the legacy copyright industry execs insisting that copyright infringement funds terrorism. Of course, the evidence for this was seriously lacking. Back in 2011 there was an incredibly detailed, evidence-rich debunking of the claim by Joe Karaganis, showing basically no connection between terrorism and infringement.

But, alas, it's a topic that never seems to go away. And now it appears that a design patent lawyer has updated the talking points to now claim that terrorists are infringing on design patents to fund their terroristic activity. First, as a quick refresher: when we talk about patents, we're usually talking about utility patents, which are a monopoly for a new invention or process. Design patents, on the other hand, are really more akin to trademarks, in that they grant a monopoly on the look of something. The idea that ISIS is out there infringing on, say, the look of someone's fancy belt buckle or a new planter is just sort of ludicrous on its face. But it certainly didn't stop big shot patent lawyer Robert Katz from making the claim at a recent event held by the US Patent and Trademark Office (who, really, should know better).

The event was the USPTO's "Design Day" held a few weeks ago, in which there were a series of discussions on design patents and such. If you go to the Livestream of the event, about an hour in Katz starts out by playing up how crafty infringers are getting, saying that they're getting smarter about how they avoid getting caught:

This is followed up by the other favorite concept that the copyright folks loved to use for years: totally and completely bogus numbers about losses of money and jobs. Notice, first that the "losses" in money lumps in all kinds of infringement, and almost certainly counts every infringement as a lost sale, even though that's clearly not the case. And job loss reports like this have been debunked so many times that it's almost embarrassing that anyone still uses those claims.

Katz goes one better in talking about how "dangerous" products were introduced into the market, he gets to claim that knockoff makeup products were causing people to break out in rashes because they had "feces" in them. Indeed, there was just a seizure by the LAPD of some supposedly counterfeit makeup products, and the whole "feces" claim made a bunch of headlines (though, it's odd that half the stories call it "animal waste" and the other half call it "human feces.") There don't seem to be many details beyond a tweet from the LAPD -- an organization never known for exaggerating anything or making statements that are inaccurate.

He also claims that sex traffickers are using infringement to fund their efforts (I thought they were using the trafficking to fund it, but... who knows?) But that's just the lead in to the really nutty claim. It all comes back to... TERRORISM!

If you can't see that, the slide notes that infringers are "tied to terrorism" and he provides three "real life examples." From the slide:

  • Charlie Hebdo shootings: There's a direct link between counterfeits and terrorism... "The sale of counterfeit goods went into buying these guns."
  • 2004 Madrid train bombings: Terrorists sold counterfeit CDs to support their activities.
  • 1993 World Trade Center bombing: Terrorists raising money by selling counterfeit goods.
Let's leave aside that if this is such a big deal, why do we need to go back a quarter of a century to find three examples (and almost 15 years just to find a second example). Even the supposedly recent claim of the Charlie Hebdo attacks being a "direct" result of counterfeit sales is pretty suspect. You can find lots of headlines claiming this, but when you dig deep into the examples, no one provides any evidence. It's often cited by a trade group advocating for cracking down on counterfeits. After reading through many, many reports, the earliest reporting I can find on the claims about the Charlie Hebdo attackers relying on counterfeits comes from the LA Times story about intelligence lapses that allowed the attackers to go unnoticed. It mentions, in passing, that after getting out of jail for an earlier run-in with the law over possible terrorism, one of the attackers "seemed to be moving into less sinister pursuits, reportedly including trafficking in counterfeit clothing and shoes."

That report also suggests that this counterfeiting activity had basically nothing to do with buying the weapons for the Charlie Hebdo attack. Instead, you get:

U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed that at least one of the brothers traveled to Yemen in summer 2011, received training from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and returned with about $20,000 in cash provided by the terrorist group. News reports have indicated that both brothers may have ventured to Yemen.

Right. So, which is it. One of the attackers selling some counterfeit shoes... or getting trained by Al Qaeda and being handed $20,000. I think the latter seems just a bit more likely.

But not to design patent lawyers like Katz. He concludes this slide by saying with a totally straight face:

"It's not like it's something where people just got a little too close. Most of the time, when people are using design patents, it's to stop activities like this."

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? Most of the time that people are using design patents, it's to stop terrorist attacks like this? What the hell is Katz saying?

No one is saying that counterfeiting of whatever things that are covered by design patents is okay -- though reports by both the GAO and the OECD have shown that claims of losses due to counterfeiting are highly exaggerated, and that in many cases there's little to no real harm, as buyers know they're buying counterfeit products, and it's an aspirational purchase (i.e., they can't afford the authentic version). Other reports have shown that those who buy counterfeits often by the real version when they can afford it.

But, nope. According to Katz, "most of the time" design patents need to be used to stop terrorists such as those involved in the Charlie Hebdo shootings (never mind the cash from Al Qaeda).

I don't know if people like Katz think the points he's spewing are accurate. He might. But if that's true, it just goes to show how silly confirmation bias can become. Design patents aren't protecting anyone against terrorism, let alone "most of the time." Saying things like that don't show how important design patents are. They show how silly people get when they get all wrapped up in artificial monopolies.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 9:49am

    Who does he think he's kidding?

    Terrorists, by definition, do not obey laws about things like murder and arson. So they're going to respect something as minor as copyright?

    ROFLMAO!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 10:17am

      Re: Who does he think he's kidding?

      Copyright is simultaneously God given and the most important inalienable right. So whether you're a religious or political terrorist of any stripe, you have no excuse to not abide by Copyright! Trademark is a close second, BTW.
      Any terrorist breaking Copyright is not a real terrorist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 11:11am

      Re: Who does he think he's kidding?

      Terrorists, by definition, do not obey laws about things like murder and arson.

      Typically, a person is a "terrorist" if they use violence to create fear to advance a political agenda. There is no generally-agreed requirement that only illegal acts qualify.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 1:31pm

        Re: Re: Who does he think he's kidding?

        So he thinks pirates burn and kill things?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 11 May 2018 @ 2:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: Who does he think he's kidding?

          Actual pirates do, copyright infringers... think the only thing they 'burn' are CD/DVD's, with killing limited to, I dunno, good taste depending on what they download?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 11 May 2018 @ 9:52am

    If there's any logic to this at all...

    If the value in design patents creates an economic opportunity for terrorists, then maybe we should eliminate design patents so that they no longer have value, thereby cutting off a cash supply.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 10:12am

    And blue boy wonders why IP law can be blamed for things such as security risks and lack of judicial oversight. This happened because IP law can't help but drag in everything to make their flimsy points. Unfortunately for us, they can't be bothered to pick up the mess after they've stuck a shit-stained finger in every pie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tin-foil-hat, 11 May 2018 @ 10:22am

    Lies

    Alternative facts are the new normal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 10:22am

    can it really get any more pathetic! what an idiot!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 11 May 2018 @ 10:25am

    Terrorist wants and our wants and needs

    To quote independence day on what they really really really want

    We want you to die.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 May 2018 @ 10:45am

    Didn't you know, terrorists cause cancer. And famine. And make people homeless. And... The children!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 11:43am

      Re:

      why not? same thing happened to free market and is currently happening to capitalism.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 1:33pm

        Re: Re:

        Hahaha, free market - never was, never will be.
        It is a hypothetical dream world that will never exist, why is it that so many are ignorant of this?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 10:45am

    Once you paint infringers as terrorists it will be much easier to target them with a drone strike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 8:56pm

    From "freeloaders" to "pirates" to "terrorists". Gotta love the idiocy of copyright cartel's propaganda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 11 May 2018 @ 10:19pm

      Terrorism et. al.

      Terrorism has long been a useless word to deride people one doesn't like. Similar to fake news. If someone calls someone else a terrorist, we can assume it's dismissive hyperbole, even when the subject is blowing up civilians for a cause.

      Recently piracy (when not referring to maritime robbery) refers to doing a thing without a license. Which started, curiously from oyster pirates who harvested beaches at night and undersold state-sanctioned oyster fishers, then underselling same fishers to suppliers for restaurants. Why they're not called oyster poachers (since hunting or fishing without license is poaching) is beyond me.

      I supposed software poachers and media poachers would work just as well. Maybe we would download a bear.

      It's still not stealing. It would be curious what forms of acting without a license are grounds for criminal charges and jail time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 12 May 2018 @ 2:01pm

        Re: Terrorism et. al.

        It's still not stealing. It would be curious what forms of acting without a license are grounds for criminal charges and jail time.

        Depending on who you ask I imagine 'Any and all' would be the answer from more than a few.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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