Op-Ed: Protecting Intellectual Property – Incentivizing Economic Growth, Creativity, and Progress

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By United States Ambassador Perry L. Holloway

United States Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway

Every year on April 26, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day to learn about the role that patents, trademarks, and copyright play in promoting innovation, creativity, and progress.  As we celebrate this year under the worldwide theme “Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity,” we recognize the ingenuity of women around the world, who are bravely using their ideas, designs, and products to shape a brighter future for us all.

Our recent event on the role of copyright protections in promoting local content and business development in Guyana reflected that theme, from an opening speech by Minister of Public Telecommunications Catherine Hughes to the inclusion of remarkable women artists that added a wealth of depth to our panel and audience.  Through their voices and the insight of all our panelists, we come to one conclusion:  To honor content creators around the world, we must consider how we can protect their work from theft.  Only this will ensure they receive the credit and financial reward to enable them to keep using their creative talents to better themselves, to better their craft, to better Guyana, and ultimately to better the world.

The protection of the creativity and hard work of writers, artists, musicians, and others makes prosperity and progress possible.  During my time as U.S. Ambassador to the Co-Operative Republic of Guyana, I have seen firsthand that Guyanese are hardworking, intelligent, and resourceful.  The ingenuity and ability of Guyana’s artists and entrepreneurs is daily proof of it.  I consider them and their creations as part of the social fabric and cultural patrimony of Guyana, highlighting the true extent of this country’s wealth beyond its already vast natural resources.  As representatives of Guyana’s country brand domestically and overseas, writers, artists, filmmakers, fashion and textile designers, mobile and web application coders and creators, and inventors in all sectors send a strong signal to the rest of the world about Guyana’s values, traditions, and knowledge.  Protecting their creations and their intellectual property rights (IPR), is the right thing to do.

It’s not just individuals who benefit.  Research shows robust legislation to protect IPR encourages the development of the arts and breeds innovation in science and technology.  Many people assume protecting people’s IPR only helps high-income countries where companies spend large amounts on research and development (R&D).  However, economists have learned that improving patent, trademark, and copyright protections help economic development in countries at all economic levels.  This is because a strong IPR framework aids open trade, which in turn creates greater trust between trading partners, helping increase economic prosperity.  In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s international index found a strong link between robust IPR protections and increased technology transfers and exchanges, access to foreign direct investment, and employment.  Even countries without large – or even visible – R&D sectors benefit from a strong IPR regulatory framework because it gives them more access to new partnerships, technology, and knowledge.

As the Government of Guyana prepares to take up the pen on copyright legislation, I commend the Ministers, advocates, and content creators that have been and will continue to champion an improved framework of IPR protections in country.  They are the visionaries that see, today, how legislation, treaties, and outreach will ultimately benefit the people and the economy.  Today, on World Intellectual Property Day, I salute them and encourage all of us to support local content creators – from artists to inventors to software engineers – by purchasing their work through legal means and applauding those advocating for change.

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