Understanding and improving intellectual property rights and protection for cultural creators and producers is the focus of a four-day training workshop under way in Suva, Fiji, this week.

New songs, fashion designs, crafted products, dance moves and paintings all emerge from the creative minds of cultural producers in Fiji and throughout the Pacific.

Piracy, unauthorised use of designs and other intellectual property infringements are significant threats to both the livelihood of individual artists and to the creative industries sector as a whole.

Creators, producers and retailers of cultural products, government representatives and intellectual property enforcement officers are taking part in the training, made possible by the European Union-ACP funded ‘Enhancing the Pacific Cultural Industries: Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands’ Project.

The workshop is co-organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Fiji Department of Heritage and Arts and the Fiji Arts Council.

“The aim is to improve understanding of intellectual property laws in Fiji and recognise the impacts of piracy, potential gaps in existing intellectual property legislation and other issues of intellectual property rights infringements on the Fijian cultural industries,” SPC Culture Advisor, Elise Huffer, said.

“It’s also looking at helping producers understand their intellectual property rights, the processes involved in enforcing their rights and how to use the existing system, such as trademark registration, to enhance their business,” Ms. Huffer said. “Participants have clearly indicated the need for all parties to work together to address infringements and improve the working conditions of artists.”

European Union Deputy Head of Delegation Johnny Engell-Hansen said: "The EU believes that the protection and enforcement of intellectual property is crucial to the ability to stimulate innovation and to compete in the global economy. Intellectual property rights such as patents, trademarks, designs, copyrights or geographical indications enable inventors, creators and businesses to prevent unauthorised exploitation of their creations, and in return, to get compensation for their efforts and investment. These have been important contributors to European competitiveness and they also apply to Pacific countries."

Among the guest speakers is Patricia Adjei, Indigenous Communications Coordinator and Legal Officer from Viscopy, an organisation based in Australia and New Zealand dedicated to supporting visual artists’ ability to protect their intellectual property rights. SPC and PIFS and Viscopy are discussing the possibility of establishing a partnership to assist visual artists in Fiji and beyond.

Increasing knowledge and developing strategies for enforcement of legislation by relevant legal institutions is also among the objectives of the training which is co-facilitated by Pita K Niubalavu, SPC’s Intellectual Property Consultant.

The regional project recognises the contribution of cultural industries to Pacific economies and works to strengthen their position in the economy. It is implemented through a partnership between SPC, PIFS and the European Union.

The workshop, Fiji Cultural Industries Training: Intellectual Property Rights and Protection, is being held at SPC’s offices in Nabua.

A similar workshop will be held in Samoa later this year in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.