Long Jeremy | April 25, 2016
I am happy to be here with all of you today and to join you in celebrating World Intellectual Property Day. In particular I would like to thank to the Intellectual Property Office of Serbia for organizing this event. Events like this serve to remind us that the Serbian government appreciates the importance of intellectual property rights, and the critical role that they play in the Serbian economy.
I’m impressed with the number of people who are here because I believe that the importance of intellectual property rights is often overlooked. The reasons that many people don’t pay attention vary. Some think that IPR is a mundane topic filled with rules and regulations. They see it as a purely bureaucratic exercise and their eyes glaze over when the conversation begins. Other people have trouble grasping the importance of IPR, or worse yet they think it is something that only the rich and large corporations benefit from. While I can sympathize to some degree with the first opinion – let’s be honest, IPR protection can involve a lot of rules and bureaucracy – I strongly disagree with those that believe that protecting IPR only helps the rich and powerful.
Serbia has a long and distinguished history of fostering innovation and creativity. From Nikola Tesla to Mihajlo Pupin to Pavle Savic, Serbia has produced many world renowned scientists and inventors. The intellectual capital of these men, and many other creative men and women like them, is one of Serbia’s greatest assets, and it deserves to be protected. The work of innovative Serbians, like these, can drive job creation. Protecting that work creates incentives for future innovation, after all, who wants to work hard and develop new ideas and products if others can simply steal them, taking away the creator’s ability to profit from their work?
As Mr. Maric mentioned, creative industries play a big part in the economy. This is clearly important to the United States as we have some of the world’s largest companies in this sector. However, they are not alone. In the United States our companies learned long ago that innovation was a key to remaining competitive in the global market. Innovative industries are some of the most profitable in the United States. They are also among the most IP intensive. These industries are responsible for about $5 trillion, or about 35 percent, of the U.S. GDP. None of this would be possible if our companies could not trust the government to create a system that effectively protects their intellectual property. When looking to invest abroad one of the first things U.S. companies investigate is the IP regime in country they are considering. For many U.S. companies IP is their most valuable asset, and they are not willing to expose it to an environment where that asset is not protected. Who can blame them, would you leave your most valuable possession lying on the street for someone to take? This is why IPR protection is also a key element to attracting foreign investment direct investment, and improving the overall business environment.
Despite the efforts to protect intellectual property, all of us know that piracy exists. It is exists everywhere, including in the United States and Serbia. According to recent statistics, piracy costs Serbia and the rest of the world billions of dollars. Many people justify their actions by saying that piracy only hurts the wealthy or big businesses. They also claim that illegally obtaining one movie or one piece of software is so small that it couldn’t possibly have any effect. However, this simply isn’t true. Piracy not only reduces revenue for the companies involved; it also affects the number of employees they hire, how much they can pay those employees, and how much the companies pay in tax. In Serbia alone one study suggested that a one percent reduction in piracy rates could result in 1,200 new Serbian jobs.
Ultimately adequate IPR protection is an essential part of a modern, western economy. It encourages investment – particularly in high value, job-creating industries. It also encourages innovation – the primary catalyst for small- and medium- enterprises that drive economic growth and success. And that is why I’m glad to be presenting here today, alongside my colleagues from the Serbian government and the EU. I believe that all of us share the goal of seeing the Serbian economy continue to grow, the business environment continuing to improve, and the Serbian people benefitting from increased prosperity. Also, I know that we all share the belief that protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights is a critical element in achieving these goals. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to build a stronger foundation for IPR protection in Serbia.