Intellectual Property: Why Do We Care?

April 26 marks World Intellectual Property Day, a time when we recognize the power of innovation and the tremendous effect it has on our lives.  Here in Armenia, I have already witnessed firsthand the tremendous ingenuity of the Armenian people.  I attended my first hackathon a couple weeks ago and witnessed the genius of young, tech-savvy Armenians as they came up with new and innovative ways to help their government become more transparent, efficient, and accountable.

Whether they are developing the world-changing technologies of the future, enriching the world through their artistry and imagination, or developing the next mobile app to make our lives just a bit more convenient, Armenians make amazing contributions to the world’s store of intellectual capital every day.

Luther George Simjian – Inventor of the ATM

The Armenian creators, inventors, and discoverers of today follow in the footsteps of countless intellectual pioneers of Armenian descent who made tremendous contributions to modern life.  Armenians have allowed us to live richer, healthier lives through the invention of the MRI and PET scan technology.  They have changed the world of entertainment by helping to create the color television.  They have changed the way we conduct commerce through the invention of the automated teller machine and the green ink used in U.S. currency.  They have given us the simple pleasure of the waffle cone. Not to mention the many works of beauty they have created throughout the centuries; in music, literature, visual arts, and numerous other fields of endeavor.  All of these inventions and creations constitute intellectual property.

I hope these examples have helped convince you just how integral intellectual property is to the fabric of our lives.  Protecting intellectual property is a crucial component of the economic competitiveness of any nation.  Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are just a few of the tools that ensure the groundbreaking work of creators, inventors, and innovators is not stolen.  When countries strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights at home and abroad, they encourage more innovation, which in turn creates new engines for economic growth.

Raymond Damadian, first to receive a patent for the MRI

The United States is committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of our companies and ensuring a level playing field for our creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs.  In the United States, intellectual property is big business.

By some estimates, intellectual property industries account for over a third of our gross domestic product and support tens of millions of jobs.  So when intellectual property is stolen, the costs are significant.  The estimated cost to the U.S. economy from intellectual property theft amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars each year.  Fighting intellectual property theft means protecting U.S. jobs, supporting the continued growth of a resilient and diversified economy, and promoting continued U.S. leadership in innovation.  Of course, intellectual property rights are not only important to the United States, but to any country, including Armenia.  As Armenia continues to create and innovate, intellectual property rights will be a key piece of the equation.

Waffle cone inventor Alex Manoogian

So on this World Intellectual Property Day, let us celebrate the creative spirit of Americans and Armenians alike.  We see the tremendous contributions they make to our world through their ingenuity.  We cherish the ways in which they make our lives healthier, safer, richer, and more enjoyable.  To secure the continued promise of their ideas, I hope you will join me in recognizing—and working to protect—the critical importance of protecting intellectual property rights.

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