Our world runs on the spark of creators: those who have – through inspiration, dedication, accident, and trial and error – found ways to solve problems, make opportunities, and bring joy to the world. In celebration of the genius of creativity, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day each April 26. This year’s theme, as designated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), highlighted intellectual property and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The past 12 months have been a testament to the importance of intellectual property and the need to protect the rights of those pioneering and life-changing inventions from around the world. This year, WIPO is focusing on SMEs that are the heart and soul of many communities. It takes a lot of work to come up with a truly useful and unique idea or product. Confidence that ideas and inventions will be protected by patents, copyrights, or trademarks gives creators the incentive to spend their time, energy, and effort to build the future.
Inspiration can strike anywhere – in big companies or in small workshops. Good intellectual property laws protect all creators, regardless of size. Small and medium-sized businesses are job creators, pillars of local communities, and the economic engine of our economy. SMEs are also the backbone of national economies. They seed the breakthrough innovations and inspiring creations to expand our possibilities; they create millions of jobs to sustain our families and our communities; and they deliver the goods and services we depend upon every day.
Many SMEs rely on the protection of intellectual property rights for their livelihoods – whether they are producing specialty products or creating tailored content for local or global audiences. Trademarks protect their name or design from forgers. Without clear and enforceable IP rights, entrepreneurs and small businesses risk losing name recognition, brand loyalty, and millions of dollars in the marketplace to copycats and counterfeiters who steal their ideas and their reputations. And that means that communities lose engaged private sector partners, robust civic networks, and needed employment opportunities.
Over the past year, the economic crisis resulting from COVID-19 has devastated millions of small- and medium-sized businesses around the world and the communities that depend on them. But the United States has taken measures to support the SME creativity we need in this difficult time.
Supported by strong intellectual property norms, innovators have developed promising advances in new uses for existing drugs, personal protective equipment, breakthrough trials, and tests for COVID-19. Across the country, patented technology has enabled us to work and learn remotely from our homes, to stream the latest digitally-delivered music, movies, and television shows, to continue to receive medical care through innovative telemedicine apps — all made possible because creators big and small are protected by strong copyright and trademark norms. Many of these breakthroughs would not be possible without 21st century patent protections for software and other intangible goods.
We continue to celebrate intellectual property’s role in supporting SMEs because they deserve it! Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to our economic recovery, and to all the challenges we face will continue to be driven by strong intellectual property protections that enable innovation and encourage entrepreneurship that create good jobs in our communities.
We particularly thank you, the innovators, for your creativity and your dedication to your communities. Strong intellectual property protections will enable you to continue to grow and your communities to prosper.
About the Author: Ambassador Marcia Bernicat is the Senior Official for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment and Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.