Thursday, April 26, 2007

US Backlash Against Military/Surayud Regime and its Theft of US Intellectual Property


USA for Innovation ( has announced an advertising campaign to highlight Thailand's new military regime and its recent threats to seize patents owned by American companies. The advertisement, a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, highlights a recent movement by the new Thai military regime, which assumed power by coup last September, to steal American medical innovations.

Additionally, supporters of USA for Innovation delivered over 35,00 letters to President Bush, Administration officials and Congressional leadership urging the United States to “take retaliatory action in the form of trade or economic sanctions or the removal of military aid.“

Complete Text of the Advertisement

“Slouching Towards Burma
Thailand's Radical New Regime

When military dictators take over by coup, the people lose. Right now, General Surayud Chulanont is steering Thailand the way of Burma.

First, he lined military pockets with pay increases of $9 million and new military spending of $1.1 billion.

Then the opposition started disappearing. Human Rights Watch last month released a report detailing 22 cases of targeted “disappearances“ by the Thai military in the southern provinces.

Then the Ministry of Health threatened to kidnap American tourists.
The military-appointed representative at the World Health Organization, Dr. Suwit Wibulpolprasert, proposed in January holding Western tourists hostage to bargain for flu vaccines.

Then coup leaders hastily imposed draconian measures on foreign-owned companies -- like capital controls, restrictions on business advertising and surveillance of Americans working in Thailand. And now they are stealing American assets for military benefit.

The new military-appointed Minister of Health, Mongkol Na Songkhla, has begun to override the patents on American medical innovations to strengthen manufacturing for the military-controlled Government Pharmaceutical Organization.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark website claims that such theft costs America $250 billion and 750,000 jobs per year.

In a global economy American innovation is our comparative advantage.

A study by USA for Innovation estimates that U.S. intellectual property today is worth between $5 trillion and $5.5 trillion, equivalent to about 45 percent of the U.S. GDP and greater than the GDP of any other nation in the world.

We urge President Bush and the Congress to Protect America's Interest and the People of Thailand.“

About USA for Innovation

USA For Innovation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of intellectual property and continued innovation around the globe. USA For Innovation educates decision makers, the media and general public about threats to innovation. For additional information, please contact us at 866-646-8668 or

Excerpts of the letter:

"Thailand's Minister of Health Mongkol na Songkhla is in Washington D.C. this week and is scheduled to meet with Members of Congress and top officials of the Administration, including Secretary Gutierrez and Ambassador Schwab's deputy Karan Bhatia. These meetings present an excellent opportunity for U.S. policymakers to remind Thailand of its obligations in the global trading system, the numerous benefits the government of Thailand receives through U.S. preference programs, the importance of intellectual property (IP) protection to American interests, and concerns that recent actions by the new government in Thailand threaten our allied bilateral relationship."

"In September of last year, the military assumed control of the government in Thailand, and appointed new officials throughout the government. Failure in the new regime appears to be systemic."

"The important distinction between theft of American assets on the streets of Bangkok and theft of American assets in Thailand's public health care system is that the latter is sanctioned, endorsed and promoted by the government of Thailand."

"When Thailand's Ministry of Health issues a compulsory license, it does so to the GPO, a historically corrupt state-owned, for-profit monopoly."

"In 2002 Thailand's then-Auditor-General Jaruvan Maintaka issued a report saying that the GPO sold about 60% of its medical products to government agencies at above market prices. In some cases, prices were marked up 1,000 percent."

"Even more disturbing than Thailand's desire to rob American innovation for the sole benefit of building up its state-owned drug company are the implications such actions have on public health in Thailand. For starters, the facilities used by GPO to manufacturer these HIV/AIDS medicines have not been approved by the World Health Organization for meeting basic internationally acceptable standards for safety and efficacy. Even worse are the resistance levels Thai patients are developing as a result of shoddy medicines distributed by the GPO."

"Thailand's Minister of Health has repeatedly claimed that compulsory licenses are necessary because 'we don't have enough money to buy safe and necessary drugs for the people under the government's universal health scheme.' This claim comes at a time when new military leaders awarded themselves wage increases totaling $9 million and raised military spending by more than 30%, or $1.1 billion."

"Consider additional measures to protect American intellectual property in Thailand, including:

a. the revocation of benefits accrued to Thailand under the Generalized System of Preferences;

b. the imposition of import tariffs to redress direct takings by the government of Thailand from American innovators and legitimate patent holders

c. the removal of additional government aid to the current regime due to concerns over democracy and corruption."

This is interesting because they actually paid for a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal.

Also, this is a non-profit and not a lobbying group.

I'm going to check out the accusations about surveillance of businessmen and holding tourists hostage over drugs.

Nothing surprises me anymore, but I don't know if these are serious charges or just things taken out of context.


Anonymous said...

Lets hope surveillance and hostage-taking are a misplaced joke or a drunken ramble. If not this is very serious stuff. I did find the report and the letter a bit creative in its interpretation of the facts in Thailand however, there is no doubt that in stealing IP in respect of drugs, the Thais are furthering their cultural desire to rip off westerners by making it government policy. Very worrying.


Unknown said...

As a person working in the software industry, I am very aware of the gigantic patent problem facing the US and the world now. Patents are government-granted monopolies designed to encourage research and progress: a means of avoiding the tragedy of the commons that would take place if anyone could legally copy the fruits of a competitor's labor and compete head-to-head. Since software changes so rapidly, it's pretty clear to everybody that patents are a huge mess and detrimental to the industry.

For medicine, things are different because years of research and millions of dollars are invested before a drug comes to market. Medical companies must have confidence in their R&D investments or they would not bother in the first place.

However, in this specific case, I tend to interpret the situation as two powerful groups doing hardball negotiations the only way they know how. To think that the drug companies would not do everything they can to get a better sale price is naive.

But in general, I very much wish Thailand would respect both patent and copyrights of the world. Not only is it -- well -- civilized, but it would also indirectly benefit me professionally since it would likely encourage some to move to free or open source alternatives. Proprietary software companies depend on piracy because it maximizes their user base and locks competition out.

P.S. "Intellectual property" can refer to patent law, copyright law, trademark law, or trade secret law -- all of which are for very different situations. Please consider the more precise terms to avoid muddying the waters. See the Free Software Foundation's criticisms for information. Thanks!

hobby said...

Fonzi said: "not a lobbying group"

Your kidding, right ?