Intellectual Property Rights Help Drafts and Visual Arts Exporters: In a Joint Effort to Protect Artists and Artisans in Developing Countries from Theft of Their Creative Ideas, ITC and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Have Published a Guide Full of Practical Advice

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"The 135-page guide is aimed at the innumerable craftspeople and artists throughout the developing world who often don't know how to protect themselves from unscrupulous imitators of their creations," says Maria-Mercedes Sala, ITC's Senior Market Development Officer.

"Not only is this obviously unfair to these artists and artisans, but the craft and visual arts sectors of developing and transition countries constitute a substantial part of their national cultural heritage. Their creations are important for sustainable economic development and for efforts to reduce poverty."

In a preface to Marketing Crafts and Visual Arts: the Role of Intellectual Property, J. Denis Belisle, Executive Director of ITC, and Kamil Idris, Director General of WIPO, point out that "with the ease and speed of copying and imitation, the market can simply get flooded with lookalike products or downright copies.

"The real challenge for artisans and visual artists (painters, sculptors and photographers) is not just to produce and market winning new products that cater to changing consumer tastes, but also to prevent--or, if unable to prevent, to deal effectively with--unfair competition or theft of their creative ideas."

Preventing unfair competition

They point out that the intellectual property (IP) system is "the best available tool for deterring unfair competition and for creating and maintaining exclusivity over creative and innovative output in the marketplace".

There are many different types of IP, such as copyright, trademarks, patents and certification marks.

"Registering with intellectual property offices, either individually or through a professional association, need not be a costly process," says Ms Sala, "contrary to what is commonly thought."

The ITC-WIPO guide informs artisans and artists in developing countries on "why, where, when and how" they should consider using IP to market more successfully their creations in other countries.

"Let's put it another way," the ITC official continues. "The raison d'etre of ITC is to help people in developing countries to export their goods and creations. …