Protecting Intellectual Property Means Investment, Jobs, and Creativity

Posted by Ziad Haider
May 3, 2016
A man browses through pirated DVDs displayed at a street side stall in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Every year, reflecting the United States’ commitment to encourage effective intellectual property rights protection and enforcement worldwide, the U.S. government issues the Special 301 report, which reviews the state of intellectual property rights protection around the world. This year’s report was released last week and there was something new in it. More specifically, there was something missing.

This year, for the first time in over a decade, Tajikistan was not one of the report’s Watch List countries.

Businesses of all sizes rely on strong intellectual property protections to develop new products and sell from their established library of goods. Companies are reluctant to move to places where their intellectual property will not be protected and indigenous entrepreneurs operate in environments where they cannot protect their work and where innovative industries cannot flourish. This is why musicians and film makers fight so hard to combat illegal downloading and a major reason there are so many checks before a customer can obtain medicine --  the pharmacist is protecting against counterfeit and often poisonous imposters.

A worker holds seized fake pills. [AP Photo]

Tajikistan was removed from Special 301 Watch List because it took concrete measures to better protect intellectual property rights. It established ex officio authority for its customs authorities, meaning that their officials can seize shipments they think contain counterfeit goods even if they did not previously receive a complaint against the shipment. Tajikistan also began seriously working towards ensuring that all the software on government computers will use only licensed software. This is important because it is hard to convince the average person not to use pirated software when the government is using it. There is still work to do, but companies now know that Tajikistan is committed to better protect intellectual property will be more confident in investing. Increased investment will lead to more jobs, and faster economic growth will benefit all aspects of society. It also helps U.S. businesses that are looking for new opportunities.

An armored truck drives over a pile of pirated DVDs and computers at a symbolic destruction of counterfeit goods and DVDs at a police headquarters. [AP Photo]

While the Government of Tajikistan deserves all of the credit, the United States Government worked closely with them in an advisory capacity. Our two governments proved they can undertake the detailed and often slow work that governments need to do when they want to produce real and lasting benefits. Tajikistan's progress also showed that they are open for business. Countries that protect intellectual property are countries that provide rewards for investors and allow their citizens to innovate. These are the countries that grow fastest. Strong protections for intellectual property are a prerequisite for joining the modern international innovation economy. Tajikistan has shown that it is ready to join. Hopefully, in the near future, more countries will do this work and will be able to be removed from the Special 301 Watch List.

About the Author: Ziad Haider serves as the Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. 

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