Workshop on Intellectual Property Generation, Management and Commercialisation
Honourable Alan Ganoo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation and International Trade,
Dr Sunil Boodhoo, Director Trade Policy,
Mr Christian Caspar, GFA Consulting, EU Project Leader on “Implementation of the IP Development Plan in Mauritius"
Representatives from Universities, Research institutions and IP Enforcement agencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All protocol observed,
Good morning to all of you and a warm welcome to all the Intellectual Property experts supporting Mauritius under our Economic Partnership Agreement support programme (EPA).
We are pleased to note that this workshop on Intellectual Property Generation, Management and Commercialisation is organised following the proclamation of the Intellectual Property Act last month. Let me start by congratulating the government and Minister Ganoo in particular for this achievement that has been a long and complex process.
As Mauritius will shortly celebrate 54 years of independence, it is timely to focus on the role of Intellectual Property in the next stage of the economic development of Mauritius: how can Intellectual Property fuel innovation and creativity and promote trade and investment?
As you all know, Intellectual Property drives economic growth and competitiveness. Intellectual Property therefore matters economically, because it helps economies to grow and to mature.
Intellectual Property is today at the heart of any successful business. All of them own some form of Intellectual Property. It could be in the form of technology, innovative designs or original works of art, music or film.
And a strong IP framework will have the same effect for the Mauritian economy.
The creation of an environment which enables researchers, scientists, authors, companies and universities to continue on producing innovation and Research and Development (R&D) inevitably involves the protection of Intellectual Property Rights, such as trademarks, patents, designs, geographical indications and appellations of origin, and copyrights.
In fact, the protection of such rights promotes the creation and dissemination of inventions with a consequent positive impact on the economy.
For instance patents protect inventions and innovation;
copyright protects text, music and images;
design rights protect new creative designs;
trademarks protect brands and logos;
geographical indications protects the names of traditional food and drinks that originate from specific regions with intrinsic specific qualities.
The evidence clearly shows us that great ideas, properly protected and effectively exploited, help companies compete more successfully both in domestic and foreign markets.
We have to defend the fundamental principle that the inventor, the designer and the artist must be justly compensated.
If Mauritius is to fulfil its potential for IP development, then it is essential to establish a business environment that allow companies to operate effectively and safely across borders. And that is why a comprehensive IP system is so important.
But here comes another challenge: unless businesses, creators and other users understand how best to navigate and make use of robust IP frameworks, they aren’t able to exploit the true value of their ideas.
And at national or even regional level, if one fails to maximise the contribution of IP to economic success and growth, then ultimately this slows the social and economic progress of our partner countries. At the most basic level, it means fewer sustainable and high value jobs for people.
That is why the question of enforcement becomes so important, particularly of counterfeiting and piracy; let’ face it clearly: infringements of intellectual property in general, are an ever-growing problem with a strong global dimension.
Although it is, by its very nature, extremely difficult to put a figure on illegal activity of this kind, estimates of the scale of the phenomenon range from 3 to 9% of total international trade, which comes to a staggering €120 to 370 billion every year.
With this in mind, customs measures are clearly an essential plank of any IP enforcement strategy. The European Union has been working in close collaboration with a number of key trading partners to ensure that IP Rights are equally respected in third countries.
And of course, that is why the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) performs such a key role in ensuring that with an increasingly global marketplace, countries play by globally agreed rules. That means that international cooperation is the keystone to the fight against counterfeiting and piracy.
Intellectual property protection not only supports the development of knowledge based industries, but also stimulates international trade and encourages foreign direct investment and technology transfer.
Foreign infringement of intellectual property harms businesses by raising their costs, lowering revenue, and eroding profits. Consumers can face health or safety hazards from counterfeit pharmaceuticals or automotive products; pirated software presents a range of threats to computer security and personal privacy. Enforced IP rights ensure products are authentic, and of the high-quality that consumers recognize and expect.
The next difficult question is how to ensure such a wide and far-reaching protection? The good news here is that with the current on-going negotiations for the deepening of our Economic Partnership Agreement, the future accession of the 5 East and Southern African partner countries (MAU together with SEY, MADA, COMO and ZIM) to international IP treaties and conventions are under discussions and steadily progressing.
We are encouraged to note that the IP Act already makes provision for Mauritius to adhere to WIPO administered Treaties. And precisely, our support to Mauritius today is very timely: it is paving the way to access international treaties that will enable international registration of patents, trademarks and designs administered by WIPO under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid protocol and the Hague Agreement respectively.
And we strongly encourage Mauritius to complete the accession procedures to those Treaties as soon as possible; why? Because simplified procedures will not only bring more clarity and predictability of the IP legal framework, they will also transform Mauritius into an innovative and competitive hub in this region where the use of Intellectual Property will be invaluable.
We also look forward for the setting up of the IP Council that has the key role of an advisory body and at the same time ensure coordination with IP enforcement agencies : police, customs, IP Office, Public Prosecutors Office and the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The importance of intellectual property has grown significantly over the last decades, and the trend will likely continue in the future. One only needs to look at the IP policies of major emerging economies.
We hope that the discussions in the workshop today and in the future will aim to help Mauritius maximise its potential of developing intellectual property assets whilst ensuring a strong IP protection.
I wish you all fruitful discussions and deliberations.