Remarks by Economic Counselor Alan Tousignant World Intellectual Property Day (April 27, 2015)

(as prepared for delivery)

As my Ambassador likes to say, “All Protocols observed.”

On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I would like to commend the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the Intellectual Property Committee of the Section on Business Law of the Nigeria Bar Association for hosting today’s event.

Last Friday, the U.S. Embassy also hosted an event to commemorate both World Malaria Day and World Intellectual Property Day, with a focus on the problem of counterfeit malaria drugs.  Today’s event, with the theme of “Get up, Stand Up For Music,” is a fine example that everyone can understand, especially in a country like Nigeria where music is so appreciated.

In the United States, as in Nigeria, the music industry is a thriving sector of the economy that provides jobs for artists as well as all the people who support services and products related to the artist’s work.   The intellectual property (IP) protection of music has been critical to the success of this industry in the United States.

Music is the lifeblood of much of our culture and our economy.   Musicians, singers, composers, conductors, record producers, electronics manufacturers, DJs, radio, television, Internet—the list is endless of those whose livelihood is related to music.  Promoting respect for intellectual property in the innovative industries, of which music is an important part, means jobs.

For example, in 2010, IP-intensive industries contributed $5 trillion (or 35 percent of GDP) to the U.S. economy.  Those industries supported 27 million American jobs directly and another 13 million jobs indirectly through their supply chains.  Merchandise exports of IP-intensive industries totaled $775 billion in 2010 (or 61 percent of total U.S. merchandise exports).

Given the importance of music to our well-being, it is important that governments provide an enabling environment to encourage the growth of this industry.  As in the case of patents and trademarks, effective protection of copyrights, is an essential role of government in encouraging innovation and the creative talents of people.

When President Obama launched the U.S. Government’s Strategy for American Innovation in 2009, he said, “The United States led the world’s economies in the 20th century because we led the world in innovation.  Today, the competition is keener; the challenge tougher; and that is why innovation is more important than ever.  It is the key to good, new jobs for the 21st century.”  And as President Obama has made clear, “our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people.”

Nigeria’s economic development too depends on the innovation, ingenuity, and creativity of Nigerians.  The timeless principles of intellectual property protection apply just as much in Nigeria as in the United States.

Strong intellectual property rights protection is characterized by the following:

  • Spurs innovation and job creation;
  • Turns innovative ideas, creative designs, and other intangible assets into valuable business assets;
  • Is integral to the rule of law and good governance; and
  • Promotes public health and safety by combating fake goods.

It is essential that governments enact and enforce laws that are effective in combatting violations of intellectual property rights and include criminal penalties as a deterrent.   It is important to encourage, not discourage, the drive and economic incentive to produce the great music that we love and that account for millions of jobs and billions of dollars contributed to our economy annually.  Intellectual property rights protect and encourage innovation and creativity, which are key factors in creating new jobs and growing exports.  To this end, we need to stop piracy and counterfeiting.

In closing, it is a pleasure to join Nigeria in marking the 15th annual World Intellectual Property Day, as well as the 45th anniversary of the entry into force of the convention establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.

We look forward to continued cooperation in promoting our mutual interests in developing the creative talents of our people.

Thank you.