Protecting Intellectual Property - We All Have a Stake

Feb 29 , 2020
By David Renz ( David Renz, Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Addis Abeba. )

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) needs a leader who comes from a country with a record of supporting strong intellectual property (IP) protections and enforcement. Ethiopia can help ensure this happens by casting its voting for a director general in March, writes David Renz, Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Addis Abeba.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) serves as the multilateral forum for intellectual property (IP) protection and policy engagement. It administers vital international registration systems for patents, trademarks, and industrial designs, providing an essential service for companies and inventors. Its importance cannot be overstated. In March 2020, WIPO will hold elections for its next director general. It is crucial that Ethiopia casts its vote for a proven supporter of IP protection and enforcement.

International IP rules underpin the innovation economy as well as development globally. Every nation has a lot to lose if IP standards and rules are weakened or re-cast to benefit those who threaten the freedom to create, protect and invest in innovation. This is particularly true for Ethiopia, as the country transitions from an economy dominated by the agricultural sector to a modern, diversified one that is driven by innovation, creativity, and productivity.

Economies with robust IP protections are 26pc more competitive globally and 39pc more likely to attract foreign investment, according to the US Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index.

On the other hand, intellectual property crimes hurt us all. For instance, counterfeit products compete with legitimate manufacturing and have a global impact due to lost jobs, reduced return on investment, and often, reduced tax revenue. Chinese counterfeits, for example, have destroyed the handmade traditional textile industry in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Guinea, according to the National Union of Textile Garment & Tailoring Workers of Nigeria. In Nigeria, since 1995, more than 175 textile manufacturing factories have shut down, leaving more than 250,000 workers without jobs.

Fake products not only have a negative economic impact but can have real health and safety consequences as well. Approximately 120,000 children under the age of five die each year in sub-Saharan Africa from taking fake antimalarial drugs, according to an estimate from the Brazzaville Foundation. In some areas, as many as 60pc of drugs sold are thought to be counterfeit.

Ethiopia has been a WIPO member since 1998. As Ethiopia seeks accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and given the very real economic significance of IP protections, it can take the lead by demonstrating an unwavering commitment to strong WIPO leadership. When Ethiopia casts its vote, the country will help decide who should stand at the helm of an organisation that we all rely on to provide efficient, secure, and value-added services that bolster IP protection globally.

WIPO needs a leader who comes from a country with a record of supporting strong IP protections and enforcement, who will further an agenda that ensures the continued defense of an effective and balanced system of IP rights, who promotes IP for development, and who has the necessary vision, leadership, communication, and diplomatic skills to do the job.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 29,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1035]

David Renz, Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Addis Abeba.

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