Remarks by Ambassador Joan A. Polaschik at “Intellectual Property and its Impact on Economic Development” conference 2016

United States Embassy Algiers, Algeria
September 20, 2016

Mister Minister, Mister Secretary General, ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here today to mark the opening of the “Seminar on the impact of Intellectual Property Rights on technology-driven economic development” under the joint sponsorship of the National Office for Copyrights and Related Rights (ONDA), the National Institute of Industrial Patents (INAPI), the American Chamber of Commerce in Algeria, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the U.S. Embassy in Algiers.  This seminar follows and looks to build upon last-year’s symposium on copyright issues convened by ONDA, AmCham, and the Embassy.

The protection of copyrights and patents is fundamental to building a technology-led economy, guaranteeing sustainable growth, and ensuring steady job creation.  The United States pays great attention to this key to economic success.  In 2015, the USPTO recorded more than 325,000 total patent grants, of which 52 percent were of foreign origin.  This indicator attests to the innovative spirit of the U.S. economy and how a robust system for intellectual property protections is prized by innovators and inventors around the world.

Besides being an engine for economic development, intellectual property rights also have a fundamental impact on safety, as counterfeit goods and products can create serious health and safety issues.  Counterfeit drugs not only pose a danger to pharmaceutical companies’ financial health, but also can cause real and deadly harm to the patients who take them.  Developing strong enforcement of intellectual property rights is thus fundamental both to protect citizens and to grow a strong and competitive pharmaceutical industry.

As Algeria aims to diversify its economy, innovation and entrepreneurship will pave the way to a new, sustainable economic model.  The U.S. government and Embassy have partnered with the Algerian government to make copyright and patent protections a top-priority issue to encourage nascent industrial sectors in Algeria, including manufacturing of medical devices and automotive parts.  IPR protections are also a key part of the functions of the World Trade Organization, and the Embassy is pleased to be in engaged in this realm with Algeria as it advances its efforts to join the WTO.

Finally, the protection of intellectual property rights is a critical part of creating and supporting a robust economy.  A 2012 U.S. congressional study showed that workers in industries reliant on the protection of intellectual property rights have higher productivity than employees in other sectors.  The pursuit of this increased economic activity is one of the reasons that IPR protections are so critical to establishing and maintaining a welcoming climate for investments.  The potential gains or losses of millions of dollars related to intellectual property weigh hard on investors when they consider entering or increasing their presence in a given market, and U.S. companies carefully scrutinize a country’s intellectual property rights regime before committing to international investments.  Guaranteeing the sanctity of intellectual property rights is fundamental to attracting foreign investment and fostering a diverse economy that thrives on innovation.

For that reason, I am pleased to see so many of our partners here today, from across a range of government ministries and agencies that all play an important role in protecting intellectual property rights, as well as private companies aiming to develop investment opportunities in the local industrial sector.  In support of that goal, the Embassy has brought Raymond Wittig, an international lawyer with experience in industrial patent rights, and Aisha Salem, USPTO’s intellectual property officer for the Middle East and North Africa, to present at this seminar.  They will offer the American perspective as one example of effective protection and enforcement that has helped nurture and maintain many of the most robust sectors of the American economy, including the technology and pharmaceutical industries.

Algeria already has an advanced legislative framework for the protection of intellectual property rights, and one that is in accord with the numerous international treaties that it has signed for copyright protection.  It is at least partly based on that strength that the World Intellectual Property Organization selected Algeria for its new regional office.  However, in today’s digital, interconnected world, there are no firm borders for piracy and counterfeiting, so it is crucial that we reinforce protection and enforcement measures and advance international cooperation, for the sake of all of the creators and innovators in both the local and global economy.

I hope that this seminar will further advance the respect for and protection of intellectual property rights in Algeria.  I would like to thank ONDA, INAPI, and AmCham once again, for their efforts and for this cooperation.

Thank you very much.