Governments often fall into the trap of believing that just because a particular policy worked well 10 or 15 years ago, it will have the same beneficial results if repeated today. Some do, but most fail the test of time.
A good example of an event that has outlived its usefulness took place on Wednesday when Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikuar joined police and a sprinkling of celebrities at the annual ceremony to smash up fake goods.
After symbolically venting their wrath on seized counterfeit goods by striking them with gold-coloured hammers, the offending items were crushed by a steamroller. The novelty value of these smash-ups wore off years ago. Indeed, the comment most often heard afterwards had nothing to do with the evils of piracy or the importance of 2013 as the the Year of Intellectual Property Rights Protection.
Instead people asked why the destroyed clothes, bags, shoes and sportswear had not had the fake brand names removed and then been donated to charities for the poor.
Others wondered why the police were still raiding small-scale vendors rather than cutting off supplies by arresting the masterminds and big-time producers. That way they could smash whole operations and this would have a far greater impact than bulldozing trinkets.
It also appeared to be business as usual at the internationally-known red zones in Bangkok in which criminal counterfeiting and piracy gangs operate, including those smuggling in fake goods from China.
US authorities, who earlier this year kept Thailand in the slot it has occupied since 2007 on its Special 301 Priority Watch List, have long since turned their attention to issues that cannot be hammered or steamrollered away. These include the alleged use of camcorders in cinemas to record movies, illegal downloads of copyrighted material, rampant software piracy and the seemingly never ending row over drug patents.
This concerns the issue of a legal "compulsory licence" six years ago to bypass these patents and make certain anti-cancer and anti-Aids drugs available at affordable prices to sick patients on humanitarian grounds.
This policy undoubtedly saved lives but incensed drug companies in the US and Europe which retaliated by unleashing lobbyists to press for reprisals against Thailand. It is attitudes like these that create apprehension about participating in such initiatives as the US Trans-Pacific Partnership or a free trade agreement with the European Union. Medicine costs could soar.
While Washington's concerns are being addressed, the US cannot expect other countries to adopt carbon copies of its own harsh laws. Nor will Thailand's legislators react favourably to bullying tactics.
Less than two years ago, the Business Software Alliance complained that nearly half of the world's personal computer users had illegal software. Put that in perspective and Thailand would appear to be receiving more than its fair share of heat. The way to refute unfair criticism is by a logical presentation of facts, not public sprees of destruction.
Economic Crime Division police are battling a significant number of commercial software copyright violations and snared 94 companies in the first four months of this year, up 50%. But the division's deputy commander, Pol Col Chainarong Charoenchainao, is a realist and says he doesn't expect the US to remove Thailand from its Priority Watch List within the next two to three years. Given the mood in Washington and the sway lobbyists have in Congress, he is probably right.