Protecting innovation is the key to tomorrow

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2011, 12:00am


Tomorrow, the World Intellectual Property Organisation and the international community will observe the 11th annual World Intellectual Property Day to raise international awareness about the importance of intellectual property for promoting the creative and innovative industries that are so critical to the future development of Hong Kong and the US.

Intellectual property protection promotes the development of new technology that creates jobs and raises standards of living; it contributes to green technologies and eco-friendly products, which support a healthy environment and promote sustainable agricultural and economic development.

Although we are in a period of heightened concern about both climate change and a recovering global economy, historically, such challenges have sparked innovation and presented new opportunities to benefit from intellectual property. By encouraging enforcement of trade rules, including intellectual property protection, we can support innovative industries, create new jobs and solve global challenges.

Creative individuals and industries generate solutions to some of the most difficult problems that the world faces today - to achieve medical breakthroughs, to improve efficiencies in water and farming technology, and to create cleaner technology. Intellectual property protections help foster environments in which innovation can thrive.

Because university students are at the forefront of innovation and creative industries in Hong Kong, the US consulate and the Intellectual Property Department are partnering with local universities to mark the day.

Through a Hollywood movie screening sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America and Time Warner, we hope to raise awareness about the importance of intellectual property in our daily lives.

This event will also be a celebration of the contributions made by innovators and artists in America and around the globe.

Innovation is at the heart of civilisation. The pursuit of new knowledge is at the centre of the human spirit and is what led Thomas Edison to invent and develop technologies like the light bulb and Hong Kong-educated Professor C.C. Chan to be called the 'father of the Asian electric car'.

The US intellectual property system allowed others to build upon Edison's work by granting him patent protection that let him reap financial benefit for his significant contribution to society. We must ask ourselves: who are the Edisons and Chans of today in Hong Kong? And, how do we ensure that intellectual property protections are in place to encourage their innovative spirit and support the safe distribution of technologies to those who desperately need them?

As the people of Hong Kong and America work to address global challenges such as the global economic recovery, climate change and clean energy, we must redouble our efforts to encourage and protect intellectual property rights and foster a robust environment for global innovation.

Stephen Young is the US consul general to Hong Kong and Macau