World Intellectual Property Day

“Bari or bolorin” (Good day everyone).

I am pleased to join you all here today at this wonderful facility.  The Microsoft Innovation Center is a true public/private partnership between USAID, Microsoft and the Government of Armenia.

The MIC in Armenia represents the ideal model of a public-private partnership, uniting a multinational corporation, governments, an educational institution, and local and international ICT and entrepreneurial sectors around a common goal of economic development through innovation.

The reason I am here today is to mark World Intellectual Property Day, which is celebrated annually, typically on April 26. This date was chosen because it coincides with the founding of the World Intellectual Property Organization, otherwise known as WIPO, in 1970.

I’d like to talk for a moment about why Intellectual Property Rights are so important.  Modern economies are built on innovation and creativity.  Ideas, products and inventions from all sources compete, and the companies and individuals that created the ones that succeed in the market deserve to be fairly rewarded.  This is the basic recipe for an innovative economy, and it is the basis for America’s economic success over the past two centuries.  Without the protection of IPR, innovation is stifled before it begins.  In this context, intellectual property rights are vital assets that help to protect inventors, creators, and consumers, and contribute vitally to a country’s economic well-being.

It is important to recognize the overall cost of failure to protect intellectual property rights.  Rampant counterfeiting and piracy rob entrepreneurs, businesses, and struggling artists in developing countries of the benefits of their creations and innovations and threaten these countries’ growing stake in the global knowledge economy.

While fake handbags, pirated software, counterfeit drugs, stolen copyrighted works or pirated movies may seem appealing – often because they are sold at cheaper prices – the many people who worked hard to create and produce the original products suffer from their sale.  (And many are downright dangerous, such as counterfeit drugs, automobile, and airplane parts.)  As a result, the incentive for companies to invest more money, human capital, and energy into new creative products is diminished. This creates a ripple effect and the economy suffers.  We all share the responsibility to encourage our friends, families, associates, and governments to understand and respect intellectual property rights, for ourselves and coming generations.

While annual monitoring by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) shows that the software piracy rate in Armenia has been slowly decreasing, it remains very high – 86% as of 2013.  This places Armenia among the top five worst countries in the world for software piracy.

Infringement of IPR damages Armenian businesses, depriving Armenian innovators of their just rewards, destroying jobs, and denying much needed revenue to public finances.

Armenians are recognized all over the world for their innovative capabilities and their entrepreneurial spirit.  You have immense talent here, and produce an enormous amount of intellectual property that can compete with the very best in the world market.  But in order to benefit from that intellectual property, there needs to be strong IPR protection.

An increased commitment to the protection of IPR across all sectors – the government, businesses, private consumers…. as well as from everyone gathered here in this room – is essential to enable Armenian entrepreneurs to better capitalize on the potential of their intellectual property, and thus help grow Armenia’s economy.