Promoting Intellectual Property for Economic Growth

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, May 2003 | Go to article overview

Promoting Intellectual Property for Economic Growth


Address by Her Excellency Ambassador Rita Hayes Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization

Vanderbilt University Law School February 12, 2003

Introduction

It is an honor for me to speak to you this afternoon at the Vanderbilt University Law School. I would like to thank Dean Syverud for inviting me here and giving me this opportunity to speak to you about the World Intellectual Property Organization and its work.

The World Intellectual Property Organization, based in Geneva, is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with international intellectual property matters. The Organization is perhaps best known for international agreements such as the Patent Cooperation Treaty (the PCT), The Madrid Agreement, and the Hague Agreement, which provide international registration and protection for patents, trademarks, and industrial designs, respectively.

The Organization's work in standard setting--through the development of international intellectual property law--covers the range of intellectual property from industrial property to copyright. Many of you are familiar with the WIPO Internet Treaties, two international treaties that came into force last year which help bring international copyright standards in line with the digital age.

Certainly a solid, broad-based education in law is important in understanding the intricacies of intellectual property today, particularly on the international level. I encourage all of you to include as much intellectual property law it your course work as possible. The field is undergoing significant evolution and will continue to provide challenging opportunities for years to come. It is clearly one of the most dynamic areas of legal specialization today.

What I would like to speak with you about today, however, is not so much the technical aspects of international intellectual property law, but rather the underlying message of WIPO's work. In order for the international intellectual property system to succeed, all stakeholders in the system must be convinced of the value, and the potential benefits, of intellectual property. If the public at large is going to respect the body of intellectual property law--even the concept of intellectual property itself--then it must have a concrete understanding of the nature of intellectual property and the key role it plays in economic, social, and cultural development.

Intellectual property is a term increasingly in use today, but still little understood. To many people, it remains an obscure legal concept, with little relevance to everyday life. This is why WIPO is focusing increasingly on explaining why and how intellectual property is important to every society. Our goal is to show how intellectual property--the fruits of human creativity and innovation--plays a crucial role in the development of nations. Our message is simple: In the 21st century, intellectual property provides a powerful engine for economic growth.

Understanding the "Knowledge" Economy

It has become increasingly clear in recent years that the accumulation, use, and exploitation of knowledge is one of the primary forces driving economic and social development in this century. Consider the following points:

* Knowledge and information--economically exploited as intellectual property--are replacing the more traditional, material elements of production as the primary engine of economic growth.

* This engine is fueled by the ingenuity, creativity, and innovative ability of a nation's people--truly inexhaustible resources which are increasingly the key to sustainable development.

* Converting these resources into tangible economic assets requires an effective and efficient intellectual property system.

* When properly developed, managed, and commercialized, these assets provide a solid foundation for wealth creation in all nations. …

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