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It's Everyone's Problem Protecting Intellectual Proerty by Stephen M. Young director of the American Institute in Taiwan

OT0706E | Date: 2007-04-27

Is that a real Coach Handbag?  Is that medicine I need for my blood pressure real?  I hope so.  If I write a song or a book will I be properly compensated for it?  Will my children be able work in jobs that reward them for their creativity and hard work?

Unfortunately some people believe that protecting intellectual property rights only means that they have to pay for a product they would prefer to get for free or for next to nothing.  Usually this is music, movies, or textbooks.  But it can also mean handbags, designer clothing, and more scarily, medicine.

Of course it's true:  We should pay for what we use.  But it is important to understand that protecting IPR is really about protecting all of us.  Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are there for two reasons:  First, to let the consumer know what he or she is buying, whether is a designer handbag, a piece of expensive electronic equipment, or life-saving medicine.  And, second, to protect the legitimate rights of the producer of the product.  Yes, the author should be paid for his work, the inventor for her discovery, and the designer for his creativity.  That, in turn, helps to foster innovation.  And innovation is what drives our economies, raises our standard of living, and improves our healthcare.

If you don't believe me, look at the statistics:  The World Economic Forum reported that the 20 countries perceived to have the strongest IPR protection were among the world's top 27 countries in terms of economic growth opportunities.  In contrast, the countries with the worst IPR protection were at the bottom of the pile - all were among the bottom 36 countries.  It makes sense.  Most of the growth of the global economy in the last century - a 20-fold increase - was due to innovation.  Now that that 70% of global output is generated by services, innovation has become even more important.  Both the U.S. and Taiwan have a strong interest in protecting and fostering our innovators.

For Taiwan, in particular, the future is clear with respect to economic development.  Your high-tech industries, scientists, and engineers for which you are justifiably proud, will lead Taiwan's economic growth and development.  Encouraging and protecting their discoveries and innovations are key to a prosperous future for Taiwan.  And copyright protections for Taiwan's musicians, writers, and artists, whether they be world famous or local favorites, are important to keep them creating and contributing to Taiwan's rich culture.

And yes, when we take medicine, whether it be for a headache, high blood pressure, or even the flu, we all deserve to know what exactly we are buying.

Taiwan is taking steps to improve its IPR protection.  The Taiwan Intellectual Property Office under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, along with many others in government, industry and education, are working hard on this important issue.  Not only are they improving protections for all of us, they are helping to built a prosperous future for Taiwan.  That is very much in Taiwan's interest.

Best wishes to you all on World Intellectual Property Day.

(Note:  World Intellectual Property Day was observed on April 26, 2007.)

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