Chargé d’Affaires Melinda Tabler-Stone Opening Remarks: USPTO African Regional Intellectual Property Enforcement Workshop

Your Excellencies, Acting Registrar-General, Representatives from the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO), Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, All other protocols observed.

Thank you for inviting me to join today’s opening of the African Regional Intellectual Property Enforcement Workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The protection and enforcement of intellectual property right law and policy are increasingly important in today’s global economy—both to foster innovation and, more importantly, to protect consumers.

We can all think of cases where ingenious inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, and performers, through the marketing of their products, transformed a society into an economic success story.  Effective intellectual property laws are the means to protect and promote those efforts.

We are all aware, though, that the existence of a legal framework is only the beginning.  Such protection is of limited economic and social value if creators, inventors, and businesses cannot adequately enforce their rights.

Here in Ghana, we have entrepreneurs like Shirley Frimpong-Manso, a Ghanaian film director, writer, producer, and founder and CEO of Sparrow Productions.  Shirley has received global praise for bringing strong, fully formed female characters to the screen.  She must perfect her craft while working in both a protracted economy and a struggling local film industry.  It is the lawful sale and screening of her work that finances the next project. She and her contemporaries rely on the people in this room to enforce IP laws, so that their work product is protected and they are able to continue to innovate and invest in the arts.

Shirley’s films are just one example of how intellectual property protection plays a central role in economic and cultural development.

Protection of intellectual property also has the potential to stimulate further research and development of existing innovation.  Take, for example, Danadams (da-na-dams) Pharmaceuticals, which is one of the only companies in Ghana seeking WHO prequalification.  Companies like Danadams must adhere to strict guidelines in the production of pharmaceutical products.  They rely heavily on intellectual property enforcement not only to ensure market protection, but to protect their customers from consuming fake or substandard products.

IPR enforcement also serves as an important tool to improve the national and regional competitiveness of businesses resulting in new job creation, economic growth, and societal development.  Balanced, adequate, and effective intellectual property enforcement mechanisms are the best means to ensure that rights holders and society as a whole can reap the benefits from the intellectual property system.

Finally, a robust national IPR enforcement mechanism can be a catalyst to attracting foreign direct investment.  Investors will bypass markets that do not adequately protect the intellectual property they have worked so hard to create.  I’m proud to say the United States is home to many of the world’s recent developments in technology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, entertainment, and consumer products.  We want the creators of these technologies and content to be present in Ghana and other African nations, but they will not make the investment unless they are assured that their property is appropriately protected.

As intellectual property stakeholders among the ARIPO member States, many of you play a role in making public policy, setting organizational norms, upholding the rule of law, and educating consumers.  Through your expertise and decisions, you have the opportunity to play a central role in the protection of people’s health and safety, to provide financial incentives and rewards for inventors and creators, and to contribute to overall economic growth.

There is nothing modern about intellectual property piracy or counterfeiting, but there are newer and more effective approaches to confronting and fighting the infringement of intellectual property rights.

This program seeks to provide you with insight into basic intellectual property protection, information on enforcement techniques and counterfeit medicines, and, very importantly, an opportunity to share your experiences with each other.

I believe that sharing information in this type of collaborative and diverse environment can lead to improved approaches, development of best practices, and improved effectiveness of your IP organizations.  My hope is that this forum will provide opportunity for a robust exchange of views about your experiences, successes, and challenges with intellectual property protection and enforcement.

Finally, I hope that we will continue a dialogue on intellectual property matters once the program concludes.

I wish you a productive workshop and urge you to take full advantage of the experience and the expertise in this room.