Iran Slips to 103rd in Property Rights Index: IP Theft Rampant

Iran dropped 12 places to 103rd (out of 129 countries) in the 2019 International Property Rights Index (IPRI), an annual report published by the D.C.-based Property Rights Alliance which measures how well countries protect physical, legal and intellectual property. In other words, Iran’s regime, with all its pretensions to ‘great power’ status, struggles to deliver the most basic forms of security that let a country function and flourish. In fact, one would be safer doing business in Zambia (ranked 102). And the kind of property protections ordinary citizens and businesses enjoy elsewhere as a matter of course are subordinate to the regime’s real priorities: whether it is costly vanity projects like failed satellite launches or spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars on foreign terrorist proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

Iran’s low ranking is not surprising. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has learned directly how Iran rides roughshod over intellectual property (IP) rights -- which relate to copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets -- in particular.

Since 2016, UANI has received more than 200 responses from firms around the world all pointing to one thing: Iranian copyright piracy, one critical subset of IP, is rampant.

Since the signing of the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) in 2015, Iran has frantically tried to show the world it is like any normal legitimate country and so ‘open for business.’  Although it has failed in this endeavor, it has not been for want of trying.

By fabricating pre-existing links with globally reputable firms, Iran’s state-dominated companies try to signal their legitimacy to prospective and unwitting foreign partners.  Thus, countless Iranian company websites have a ‘Partners’ web-page listing a slew of Western and often household names, featuring logos, brand names and trademarks. But the claims ties are invariably untrue.

For example, in 2017, Delaware-based DuPont, the world’s biggest chemicals company after BASF, confirmed, “It is our belief that this company is simply using our logo without our authorization.” Similarly, the German pharmaceuticals giant Merck replied in 2018, “The reference to Merck companies and products on its website is in fact an unauthorized use of our trade and product names from our Life Science business / division.” And last year, Swiss shipping titan Mediterranean Shipping Company likewise affirmed, “MSC has not authorized Petrochemical Commercial Company to publish its name on their website.” Even the World Bank, which was falsely advertized as having a partnership with an Iranian company, is not immune from the piracy epidemic.

Corporate legal departments are increasingly aware of this specifically Iranian problem. After UANI notified Bürkert GmbH of what proved to be “completely false and unmitigated ties” with an SDN-linked Iranian firm, the German engineering firm rightly concluded, “Unfortunately, unethical behavior such as this is compliance in Iran.”

Indeed. This unchecked copyright piracy is emblematic of the Iranian state in all its deception. In the entirely state-controlled press, the regime peddles absurd fake news stories every single day. Through its facsimile of a ‘parliament,’ Iran proclaims democratic credentials while limiting any political access to all but the most pliant of regime insiders. And on the world stage, it professes to combat terrorism while remaining the number one state sponsor of terrorism.

In such a climate, inculcated by manipulative leaders, stealing other companies’ names and abusing their good reputation is simply par for the course. Iran will continue to languish in business-related rankings as long as its regime does not change its own culture of deviousness and dishonesty.