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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

IP in Development

Date: 07/25/2012 Description: The Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement organized a discussion to educate participants on how Ethiopian coffee growers, Ugandan shea butter producers, and the Maasai tribe could increase the value of their products and image through the use of trademarks and certifications, accompanied by sophisticated marketing. - State Dept Image

U.S. Policy

President Obama and Secretary Kerry have made fostering innovation and scientific discovery a core component of our foreign policy. In 2014, Secretary Kerry said, “The work of diplomacy is about creating shared prosperity through innovation, through hard work, through research, through education, and creating the kind of opportunity that creates the products of the future.” Aggressively promoting and protecting innovation accelerates global prosperity. Innovation makes the U.S. and global economies more resilient to economic distress, better able to respond to climate change, expands trade and investment between nations, and enables developing nations to participate more fully in global economic growth. Laws protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) and effective IP enforcement spur innovation and development.

Creating and ensuring a sound IPR environment to facilitate economic development requires the sustained commitment of national and local governments, and the participation of creators, innovators, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders. To that end, the U.S. Department of State, other agencies, and several international organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) engage leaders and communities in developing countries to highlight the benefits of effective IPR protection and assist them in developing their IPR framework.

IPR Supports Development

Creativity and innovation are natural resources in which every country and community is potentially rich. Intellectual property provides a policy framework that encourages local creativity, foreign direct investment, increased jobs and income, and voluntary, mutually agreed technology transfer. These help both developed and developing economies grow and diversify, increasing global living standards. Supporting innovation implicitly leads to supporting norms and practices such as good governance, clear regulatory requirements, entrepreneurship, diversity of thought, gender equality, and transparency -- all of which reduce corruption and increase global security.

An effective IPR regime creates value by enabling researchers, inventors and artists to benefit financially from their works, through patent, trademark, and copyright protection. IP is an asset that enables innovators and entrepreneurs to attract investment and customers by differentiating their products from those of other companies. Consumers will often prefer products bearing a well-known trademark that represents a high level of quality, design, customer service or other desirable trait (s). Therefore, a country with an effective IPR regime rewards its innovators and artists, and encourages exports and investments by companies whose products benefit from IP protection.

The State Department supports IPR and development by:

  • Working with international organizations and participating in bilateral agreements to support development through improved IPR.
  • Encouraging governments, the private sector, and civil society to establish national policies, laws, and regulatory frameworks to remove barriers to entrepreneurship, investment, and technology transfer.
  • Funding projects that enable U.S. law enforcement agencies and diplomatic missions to provide IPR enforcement training and technical assistance programs to foreign law enforcement partners in developing nations around the world. Click here for press releases on the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) programs.
  • Overseeing bilateral Science and Technology (S&T) agreements that provide a framework for coordinating research collaboration, discussing cross-cutting themes, and addressing impediments in the bilateral relationship. The S&T Agreements cover collaboration in fields such as health sciences and public health, watershed management, agriculture, environment and biodiversity protection, biotechnology, earth sciences, marine science and the development of alternative energy sources. These agreements benefit our partners by strengthening their science education systems, their institutional and human resource capacity, and university/private sector linkages to commercialize research.
  • At the WTO, the United States submits an annual report describing its technical assistance and capacity building efforts with Least Developed Countries under Article 66.2 of the TRIPS Agreement.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

WIPO provides assistance to member states seeking to determine the economic contribution of their copyright-based industries in terms of their share in gross domestic product, generation of employment and trade. WIPO hosts the IP Advantage, a database which chronicles the IP “experiences of inventors, creators, entrepreneurs and researchers from across the globe…and how its successful exploitation can contribute to development,” and also videos featuring international artists and musicians describing the importance of IP. For example:

  • Video with Bangladeshi Designer Maheen Kahn
  • Video with Grammy award-winning musician Angelique Kidjo
  • Video with Dr. Ovadje who innovates medicine due to a lack of resources in Nigeria
  • Video with inventor and entrepreneur Mustafa Jabbar of Bangladesh 
  • Video with Sri Lankan inventor Nandadasa Narayana 
  • Case Study on Mozambique’s Gringo jeans 
  • Case Study on Empowering Women with a Wafer-thin Idea in India 
  • Case Study on Herbal Folklore and Modern Medicine in the Philippines


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