Stronger IPR Protection for a Brighter Future

Stronger IPR Protection for a Brighter Future

Ambassador Branstad on World Intellectual Property Day

April 26, 2020

Each year on April 26, we celebrate World IP Day, and recognize the benefits of intellectual property (IP) rights protections in our daily lives. This year’s theme is Innovate for a Green Future, and is dedicated to the innovators who strive to protect our limited natural resources and improve the lives of millions. These “green” innovations, like many scientific discoveries, are driven and supported by robust IP systems that incentivize inventors to bring their inventions to markets, and empower consumers to choose sustainable products from reputable producers.

Not surprisingly, the IP systems that spur innovation to protect our planet, also play a critical role in innovations that keep each of us safe. In the current, unprecedented health crisis, it is absolutely critical that front-line healthcare workers and patients in every hospital, clinic and triage center around the world can rely upon life-saving treatments and personal protective equipment (PPE), regardless of origin. Strong IP enforcement systems, with penalties that deter counterfeiting and infringement where treatments or equipment are made or sold, together with effective law enforcement cooperation across borders, can drastically reduce the incidence of fake or substandard pharmaceutical and healthcare products – and save countless lives. At the same time, robust IP systems also encourage research and investments to bring about much-needed innovations to keep us healthier and safer in the months and years ahead.

For over a decade, China has engaged in substantial legislative, administrative, judicial and criminal reforms of its IP systems. These reforms efforts have intensified recently and include the recent issuance of an IP advancement plan for the next two years. In addition, the U.S. and China signed a landmark Phase One Trade Agreement that included a substantial chapter devoted to IP. Both the advancement plan and the IP Chapter encourage the development of IP systems that play critical roles in keeping our citizens healthy and safe. We cannot predict the next global crisis. But robust, transparent IP protection and enforcement regimes will be more effective at increasing the availability of reliable treatments and equipment, compared to measures – however laudable – designed to filter these goods from the streams of commerce [after the fact]. China should continue to focus on strengthening the IP system at large, thereby ultimately preventing the infringements and counterfeits that undermine the tireless efforts and sacrifices of its own people. The U.S. has consistently supported and will continue to support meaningful reforms of China’s IP systems.

Whether it is technologies that save the planet or medicines that save lives, strong IP systems provide critical certainty throughout the arc of innovation, from creation to commercialization to consumer protection. Today, and every day, we must all work together to improve our IP systems for a brighter and safer tomorrow.