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ACG Director General's Blog

Thursday 5th May 2019

Hi all, when I took over from Alison last year (2018) I wrote a first blog explaining what I thought would be the key issues for us and how I intended to go about things.

First up, I clearly needed to take time to properly understand the whole ACG landscape in far more depth. After 9 months I thought I’d still be new; I didn’t realise I’d be such a novice!

One thing in my favour was that I wasn’t new to the Anti-Counterfeiting task and during the past 20 years I had come to believe that no single body could ever tackle this huge problem on its own. I still believe this and the fact that if we don’t develop more common aims and ways to allow private stakeholders to work together with public authorities we will still be fighting this problem in another 20 years.

Partnerships, of course, don’t always work; we know this and inevitably competing priorities will always exist. However, I believe ACG is really fortunate as we have some of the most dedicated and conscientious people I have ever worked with. I have the utmost respect for their longstanding enthusiasm and allegiance.

The problem we now face is that the enforcement landscape has changed considerably in past years. Unfortunately, it is much more multi-layered and complex nowadays. Moreover, the resources are simply not around anymore and as a result, enforcement authorities face continual challenges to do more with less. They are also under huge pressure trying to balance competing priorities.

So clearly, traditional strategies and what we expect and want as end results need to be re-thought. To get to an agreed position we need to concentrate even more effort on understanding and playing to each other’s’ strengths. This means we need to interact more effectively to better influence enforcement cooperation and collaboration.

In all this, I see the ACG as a primary ‘enabler’ in trying to ensure these precious resources have the right intelligence, training and support to allow them to make the right choices, when it comes to targeting the criminals involved in counterfeiting and piracy.

I believe this can only be achieved by working together to build an even greater understanding of where the risks, challenges and our combined strengths lie. Furthermore, we also need to better inform high-level policy makers and decision takers to better understand and accept the threats. This is particularly true as we move into a more uncertain trade environment. IP has to be at the forefront of future agreements. It has to receive full respect if we are to meet the forthcoming competition and challenges on the world trade stage.  

If the UK is believed to be getting less respectful of IP I fear potential trade partners might lose confidence, which could result in the start of a race to the bottom in terms of protection and enforcement.

So what of the future of fighting fake goods in an uncertain world? There has never been a more important time to be part of collaborative partnerships fighting IP infringement as they provide the intelligence and front line defence against the counterfeiters, but there exists a clear and present danger of that intelligence and knowledge will become more difficult to share when we leave the EU.

The bottom line is that I will be aiming to concentrate our efforts on building and influencing partnerships and providing enforcement training and assistance so we will be in a position to share our intelligence, knowledge and expertise within the UK and further afield. In doing this I believe that we will be in a stronger position to help develop common right strategies and the right choices.  

Phil


Monday 17th September 2018

Dear all, well here I am just over a month into the job.

As a new DG I thought I would make the usual start by trying to get a better understanding of how the ACG works and then trying to meet as many members and stakeholders as possible.

Acting as an adviser to ACG on strategy and government policy for four years, I’m clearly not new to the Group and it would have been easy to think I knew how the whole organisation works. However, I soon grasped how much I didn’t know! This was particularly true of the work of our Secretariat and our intelligence coordinator, Graham Mogg, and how they all interact with our members and stakeholders. Frankly, I have been blown away by the commitment and professionalism that this small team shows.

So I clearly needed to take time to properly understand the whole landscape in far more depth. That meant starting off as if I was completely new.

The one thing to my advantage is that I’m not new to anti-counterfeiting work. I’ve actually been involved for almost 20 years, both as senior policy adviser at the IP Office and then six years at the European Commission. During this time I realised that no single body could ever tackle this huge problem on its own. Partnerships are vital and for 14 years I tried my best to build structures that would allow public and private stakeholders to work together to develop common aims. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t, but generally the outcome was down to people and I was fortunate to have worked with some of the most dedicated and conscientious people in the world. Many are amongst our membership and our key stakeholders and I have the utmost respect for their longstanding enthusiasm and allegiance.

For now I’m working hard to understand and get to grips with a wide range of functions and jobs that I didn’t know existed. During this time I’ve met with one or two key stakeholders, namely Eddy Leviten of the Alliance for IP and Ros Lynch at the IPO. Both have a steadfast approach to building better collaboration and cooperation and I’m looking forward to working with them in the future.

From now on my big task will be meeting our members and primary stakeholders who enable us to function and then working with you all to build what I hope will be truly lasting and effective relationships.

On some of our principle partners, we all realise that our enforcement authorities face continual challenges to do more with less. They are often under huge pressure trying to balance competing priorities. In this respect, I see the ACG as a primary ‘enabler’ in trying to ensure these precious resources have the right intelligence, training and support to allow them to make the right choices, when it comes to targeting the criminals involved in counterfeiting and piracy. I believe this can only be achieved by us working together to build an even greater understanding of where the risks, challenges and our combined strengths lie.

Clearly, we also need to better inform high level policy makers and decision takers to understand the threats.  This is particularly true as we move into a more uncertain trade environment. IP has to be at the forefront of future agreements. It has to receive full respect if we are to meet the forthcoming competition and challenges on the world trade stage.  If we are seen to be less than respectful of IP I fear potential partners might lose confidence in us or even begin a race to the bottom in terms of protection and enforcement.

The challenges lie ahead and I really look forward to meeting and working with you to protect businesses, consumers and the economy. If you are at the forthcoming Roadshow in Cheltenham or the Annual conference please stop me to say hello.

Before I end I really have to pay tribute to the work Alison Statham has carried out over the past 13 years. Alison has been the ACG stalwart supporting and then leading the organisation at times when the economy threatened budgets and counterfeiting grew to become an international menace. Throughout Alison was utterly reliable and unswerving. 

Phil

About ACG

ACG represents more than 3,000 brands affected by this influx of fakes into the UK and delivers an international network of information, advice and contacts on all aspects of IP protection. Working with Government and law enforcement agencies since 1980, ACG is focused on providing an effective and sustained response to counterfeiting.

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