Today 26 April is World Intellectual Property Day 2017! This year’s theme is Innovation—Improving Lives. Improving lives is essentially what innovation should be all about. And Intellectual Property (IP) is what keeps innovation going. Without IP, innovation would become elastic.
Copyrights in books, movies, music, and more are not only improving the lives of creators but also benefiting people and industries as well. Industrial designs in the shape of smartphones or patterns in textiles are not only benefiting design owners but also growing industries and leading to job opportunities with their new product lines. Patents in computer technology and mobile devices are not only rewarding inventors but also changing lives and turning businesses around in a digital world. And trademarks are transforming new (and even old) products and services into household names and global brands that keep enriching lives. All these—and more—prove that innovation is indeed improving lives.
As we celebrate IP Day in 2017 and think about Innovation—Improving Lives, we must ask ourselves certain questions. How well is our IP system supporting innovation today? Are we efficiently and effectively using IP to attract investments, encourage more innovations, and open up today’s technological knowledge to tomorrow’s innovators? Since this year’s theme “explores how innovation is making our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable, turning problems into progress” (World Intellectual Property Organization), are our lives really getting healthier, safer, and more comfortable? Is Africa, for instance, turning problems to progress with innovation?
With up to 1 billion people in 54 African countries, how well are we harnessing our innovations to turn daunting challenges into opportunities; seeming impossibilities into possibilities? How well are we stimulating and supporting innovation to tackle malaria and HIV/AIDS, poverty and unemployment, corruption and illiteracy? How well are we using our IP system to secure the future of African children, protecting them from becoming mere consumers of IP in a highly competitive global age?
Innovations like M-Pesa—rated the most developed mobile-payment system in the world—coming out of Africa gives us some hope. Africans are inventing microchips that help robots carry out safer surgeries; creating election-monitoring technologies to make elections become free and fair; and inventing Bluetooth-enabled belts that help visually-impaired persons do things they could never have done on their own. But are we really protecting and harnessing these innovations to build Africa’s intellectual and industrial assets?
We must bring Africa to the 21st century, innovating our ways to development and advancement, leaping to the first world with our creative force. From Nigeria to South Africa; Kenya to Egypt; Algeria to Senegal, Africa must urgently improve its IP system to support its innovations. We must harness innovation to improve our education, economy, environment, health, infrastructure, industries, technology, and trade.
Without IP, Africa will continue to struggle, consuming so much but providing too little.
As IP & IT lawyers for tech entrepreneurs, innovators, and startups, Infusion Lawyers’s mission is to grow, protect, and support innovation by providing the legal infrastructure innovators need to maximize value, create opportunities, and open up new possibilities.