Intellectual Property

Celebrating the Power of Ideas

The English author H.G. Wells is thought to have said, “Human history is, in essence, the history of ideas.” How right he was considering the visionary innovators who have transformed the world with great ideas. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Johann Gutenberg, plus more modern day icons such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — to name but a few. It is the achievements of these and many others that we celebrate on World Intellectual Property Day.

Where do we begin to look for what’s next? Today, IP is one of the most important economic assets fueling the digital economy. The legal framework for protecting copyright, patents, and trademarks is a fundamental building block for most developed economies.

What is perhaps more interesting is to consider the growing importance of IP in emerging markets. At a roundtable event in Beijing earlier this month, US Ambassador to China Gary Locke spoke of the growing importance of IP protection to Chinese innovators who are increasingly creating intellectual capital of their own. “Stronger IPR enforcement is essential to protect the work of Chinese writers and musicians, to provide incentives for Chinese firms to invest in research and development, and to help China foster an innovative and prosperous society,” he said. While problems in IP protection in China exist in abundance, IPR is no longer an issue for foreign companies alone. There are growing numbers of Chinese innovators who realize that IPR protection is fundamental to their economic prospects.

It is not just China sitting on the precipice of an IP revolution. Emerging economies as a whole are outpacing mature markets in their rate of growth. In no industry is this shift more prominent than technology, wherein emerging markets took in more than half of the world’s new PC shipments in 2011, and now account for more than half of all PCs in use. With the burgeoning cloud computing market bringing infinitely scalable computing power to businesses and consumers around the world, the foundation is being laid for a new leap forward in the IT revolution. This puts enormous pressure on governments in emerging economies to modernize their copyright and intellectual property laws to keep pace with technological developments.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry says in his World Intellectual Property Day message, “Intellectual property is, by definition, about change, about the new. It is about achieving the transformations that we want to achieve in society.” So while we recognize the significant achievements that have come before; today we also celebrate the promise of new ideas to come. BSA and its member companies will continue to work with governments, policymakers, and organizations to advance practices and policies that encourage and protect future innovation.