2019 World IP Day Celebrates IP and Sports

In honor of 2019 World IP Day, themed “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports,” over 77 think tanks and non-profit organizations from 39 countries signed an open letter to Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), urging the organization to lead in informing international debates on intellectual property rights.  

In recognizing the importance of WIPO to the protection of intellectual property around the world, the letter praises the work of the organization in supporting and defending these rights:  

We applaud all of your efforts as Director General of WIPO to fulfill the organization’s primary purpose “to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world.” 

The letter reiterates the contributions of intellectual property rights to human achievement and a healthy and prosperous society:  

 Whether it is a new life-saving medicine, a catchy tune, or distinguishing mark all intellectual properties are products of ingenuity and human labor. In this regard, Intellectual property rights are fundamental human rights that ensure innovators have control over the fruits of their labor.  

IP protections are vital to creating and maintaining high paying jobs which are essential to dynamic economic growth. IP-intensive industries are responsible for generating nearly 40 percent of the combined U.S. & EU GDP and employ about 40 percent of the workforce in the U.S. and nearly 28 percent in the EU.  

IP rights make it possible for firms to invest billions into frontier technologies like A.I. and space transportation, allowing careers paths and industries to develop before consumer products are available. 

In a warning of the dangerous consequences to public health and brand reputation from rising counterfeiting and piracy, the letter states that: 

Counterfeiting and piracy continue to plague the world economy. The most recent estimates find global share of counterfeit goods rose from 2.5 percent of global trade to 3.3 percent, or $509 billion. While the cost of online piracy is on its way to reaching $52 billion. These poisoned products not only fund criminal enterprises and damage brand reputations but cause physical harm to consumers.  

Finally, the letter urges WIPO to take action against the growing global trend of “banning brands” that not only denies companies their rights to intellectual property and creative marketing, but also has exacerbated the rise in illicit cigarettes that are dangerous to public health: 

It is imperative for each country to play its role in guarding the global innovation ecosystem that propels humanity forward. This responsibility extends to the United Nations system which at times has produced policy papers that encourage the banning of brands and the 2016 UNHLP report on Access to Medicines that declared IP rights a barrier to medicine. These are backwards notions considering the well-documented role of intellectual property leading to the creation of new drugs and in making countries more prosperous and healthier.  

We call on WIPO to take action. We ask that WIPO, 1) review the ways that IP enhances economic growth and development; 2) work with countries to enhance their IP regimes and protections; and 3) support IP as a property right that is necessary for enhancing human welfare and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

This IP Day, we can celebrate the many human achievements in sports, medicine, and other fields that contribute to society and human advancement, by bringing awareness to the role of intellectual property rights in fostering innovation and creativity.  

You can read the full letter here