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|Protecting Intellectual Property In Nigeria by adconline(m): 7:05am On May 18, 2007|
Protecting Intellectual Property
By John Campbell
WHEN intellectual property rights protections fail, the results can be deadly. During a meningitis epidemic in Niger in 1995, more than 50,000 people were inoculated with fake vaccines, resulting in 2,500 deaths. Thirty infants died in India in 1998 and 89 Haitian children died in 1995 from cough syrup prepared with a toxic chemical used in antifreeze. The 1989 crash of a Norwegian aircraft was blamed on a fake bolt in its assembly; fifty-five people died.
"Intellectual property rights" is a fancy name for product accountability and the protection of human creativity. It's the legal mechanism - through copyright, patents and trademark - that ensures that the products we buy are genuine, and that someone else doesn't take credit for our ideas. Intellectual property rights don't just protect inventors; they protect everyone whose safety depends on product reliability in every country in the world, including Nigeria.
The protection of intellectual property rights enhances countries' development, and promotes their business and artistic environments. Such protections stimulate advances that benefit the entire world - in the form of technology, medicine and other processes. Protecting intellectual property is crucial to protecting public health and safety in countries across the globe.
Why should we care about protecting intellectual property? At the dawn of the 21st Century, 70 per cent of global economic output is generated by services, many of which depend on new and evolving technologies. Global GDP grew twenty-fold in the last Century - from $2 trillion to $41 trillion and most of this increase was due to innovation. In 2004, the World Economic Forum reported that the 20 countries perceived as having the most stringent intellectual property protection were among the top 27 countries in terms of economic growth competitiveness. In contrast, the 20 countries perceived as having the weakest intellectual property protection were among the bottom 36 countries.
In a world where ideas form the common currency, intellectual property piracy erodes a country's economy and its cultural identity. The Nigerian film industry, "Nollywood", has suffered from the action of pirates. Soon after Nigerian films are released - they are released on video, not celluloid - pirates copy the films. The marketers earn money back from their initial outlay to have the movie made, but there is no further trickle down money to the producers, creators and actors.
According to Charly Boy, immediate past president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), "fighting piracy is everybody's business. The pirates are killing everybody's creative endeavours in this country and have driven big businesses out of town, now it is time for us all to put our hands together and drive them out of town".
Copyright laws encourage the creation of literary works, computer programmes, artistic works and expressions of national culture. Patent laws encourage the discovery of new and improved products and processes, while ensuring the freest possible public access to information regarding those new products and processes. Trademark laws encourage the development and maintenance of high-quality products and services, and help companies promote customer loyalty.
Information and communications technologies, safe medicines and the other innovations that form the backbone of today's economy are only possible because of intellectual property rights. The hopes we all have for a better future depend on those inventors and innovators who will make the world more bountiful - if their creative efforts and hard work are protected.
Campbell is U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria.
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