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Deputy Chief of Mission Kathleen FitzGibbon’s Remarks Blockchain for Intellectual Property Enforcement Webinar
July 1, 2022

Good morning.  Welcome to today’s webinar, “Blockchain for Intellectual Property (IP) Enforcement:  More Than Crypto & Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs).”  I wish to thank the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the American Business Council, and all distinguished guests who are joining and contributing to this event.  (If confirmed:  I am glad to welcome our colleagues from the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and applaud their leadership in this key policy area to benefit Nigerian intellectual property owners.)

Blockchain technology is more than a buzzword or tech fad – it is a unique system of storing transaction data that creates an environment for trust and transparency.  And when it comes to intangibles like intellectual property, having trust between buyers and sellers, licensors and licensees, agents, and artists, it is paramount.

While cryptocurrency and cartoon apes may garner the bulk of the media’s attention, there are a multitude of uses for blockchain technology that can benefit intellectual property owners, distributors, consumers, and the economy as a whole.

For example, blockchain technology can help keep counterfeits out of the supply chain by ensuring ethical sourcing and authenticity of raw materials and allow the tracking of products from origin to the store shelves.  Musicians can fully realize the value of their art by deploying blockchain-based “smart contracts” to verify and automate royalty flows.  Trade secret owners can save formulas, customer lists and other proprietary information on a registry that controls who can monitor and control data usage.

Blockchain technology alone cannot stop counterfeits and piracy, which drains our economies of revenue, robs our artists, inventors, and businesses, and even endangers the health and safety of consumers.  But with the right applications, it can safeguard these assets and bolster intellectual property protection and enforcement in Africa  and around the world, as well as in support of intra-Africa trade.

Africa is already a fountain of innovation and creativity for this emerging form of technology.  A recent Vanguard survey found that about 60 percent of Nigerian and African startups are deep into researching blockchain options.[1]  Blockchain technology has the potential to drive digitization and socio-economic growth across African markets, particularly if policymakers prioritize investment in information technology and support the private sector’s efforts to innovate in this area.

I hope you all find today’s conversation insightful and thought provoking.  I hope that you will work here in Nigeria (and in African countries whose representatives are here with us today) to look at this tool for protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights to benefit African inventors and creators and protect the health and safety of all Africans.