Protecting the Creativity

Leslie Bassett, U.S. Ambassador in Paraguay.
Leslie Bassett, U.S. Ambassador in Paraguay.

Since 2000, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has celebrated April 26 as World Intellectual Property Day – a day to promote awareness and expand protection of intellectual property across the world.  April 26 also marks the 45th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This year’s World IP Day theme, “Get up, stand up.  For music,” presents an opportunity to remind music lovers around the world that the music industry, including  in the U.S. and Paraguay, is an important part of our cultural identity, and also an important source of jobs — not just for the musicians but for the producers and writers who record the music, the graphic designers who create the album artwork, the advertising firms that market the album.

There is often the perception that protecting IPR is a one-way street.  That it is countries like the United States, with large creative and technology sectors and well-established patent regimes, that have the most at stake when it comes to protecting the intellectual property of their citizens and companies.  But it is the protection of intellectual property – the ability to ensure that an artist, scientist, or computer programmer can own what they create and profit from it – that allows countries to maximize the benefits of a talented work force and create innovative economies.  Countries like Paraguay are rich in talent and innovation.  Whether it’s the global relevance of the compositions of Agustín Pio Barrios “Mangoré” or the latest innovations of the Parque Tecnologico Itaipu, Paraguayans have a stake in protecting their intellectual property.

One of my first events when I arrived in Paraguay was attending a film festival at the Centro Cultural Paraguayo Americano (CCPA).  Many of Paraguay’s leading filmmakers, cinematographers and screenwriters also participated.  These are Paraguayans who have captured the attention of the film world withthe power of Paraguayan cinema and Paraguayan stories from films like Siete Cajas and Mangoré.  In the course of our discussions, I mentioned to several of the filmmakers that while I had been able to watch some of their films online before arriving in Paraguay, I had also noticed that it was hard to find legitimate DVDs of their films now that I was in country.  “It’s a challenge for us, too” one of them said, contemplating the difficult reality of making a great film and earning enough from it to be able to make another one.

But Paraguayan filmmakers, artists, and musicians are not alone in this challenge. It goes beyond the entertainment industry.  Whether it’s harp music or mechanical engineering, the right to own the profits of the thing you create is essential to inventors and artists.  Creativity can’t live without intellectual property rights.  And investors, both domestic and international, can’t either.

For Paraguay to attract the kind of investment and create the jobs it needs, investors have to know their intellectual property is safe.  If investors cannot find that protection in Paraguay, they will look to countries that have strong IPR regimes.  The protection brands, products and inventions creates a level playing field which fosters entrepreneurship.  It also promotes a healthier marketplace for consumers by decreasing the amount of fake goods that can be faulty or dangerous.

To create a favorable environment for investment and business, the United States and Paraguay are working together to clarify, simplify and enforce the laws and regulations for doing business; including laws pertaining to intellectual propertyThrough the creation of the National Directorate of Intellectual Property (DINAPI), the Government of Paraguay already has taken positive steps toward strengthening the protection of intellectual property.  DINAPI is partnering with law enforcement agencies to increase enforcement and is reaching out to help Paraguayan consumers better understand the economic benefits of protecting intellectual property rights.

The United States wants to be a partner in these positive efforts.  An important step forward would be the signing a bilateral IPR Memorandum of Understanding.  This agreement would serve as a platform for the United States to share our experience in creating a business climate that incentivizes creativity.  This bilateral agreement would facilitate cooperation to help Paraguay build a stronger patent system, establish an interagency coordination center, and develop a professional training program for government officials.  And by working together to strengthen IPR, we would open the door to greater investment from U.S. companies and others from around the world.  But the protection of intellectual property rights is not just about business, it’s about protecting the creativity and innovation in each of our societies that is essential to building a brighter future.