By Economic Officer PAUL STEMPEL

Embassy of the United States of America

Port Louis, Mauritius

This year the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, is celebrating its 18th World Intellectual Property (IP) Day with the theme: “Reach for Gold:  IP and Sports.”  The U.S. government is a strong supporter of IP rights globally and we are proud to partner with the Mauritius Research Council and the American Chamber of Commerce to celebrate World IP Day this year.

This year’s theme will look at the economic value of sports through IP rights and the use of patents and design, which help to create new sports technologies, materials, training, and equipment to improve athletic performance while keeping fans around the world engaged.

Other areas that will be explored are trademarks and branding, merchandising and licensing agreements, athlete sponsorship, broadcasting rights, and the advancement in technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence.  “Reach for Gold:  IP and Sports” offers us a chance to celebrate sporting heroes and those behind the scenes who are bringing innovation to sports so that we too can be inspired.

These kinds of innovations require a comprehensive IP framework to flourish. The recipe for a comprehensive IP framework includes, among other things, a legal regime that ensures IP rights can be obtained and enforced. Complementary regulatory and fiscal measures incentivize research and development as well as job growth.   Due process and transparency from law enforcement, regulators, and the judiciary are essential, especially in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property assets and investments.

Launching a new brand or product requires years of investment, market research, testing, and trial and error.  Effective protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights incentivizes creation by increasing a creator’s confidence that their innovation will be protected from copying and theft.  It allows the inventor to earn income from the invention and compete on a level playing field.  It also provides a framework within which inventors can legally share information and generate even more solutions to global and local problems.

By purchasing counterfeit, pirated or otherwise infringing goods, consumers not only steal the immediate product from the legitimate creator, but also devalue hard work, innovation, and creativity.  For instance, take a sports shoe.  A shoe and its creator are protected by IP rights.  Patents safeguard the technology that developed the shoe.  Trademarks differentiate it from like products, which help protect the reputation of the company and the shoe.  Copyright provides security for those that create artwork and audiovisual material used to market the shoe.

In the United States, we are working to empower millions of people all around the world to join the marketplace.  I know Mauritius shares that priority.  Their brands, services, and products deserve the highest respect and protection.

At the State Department, we promote American industry and ingenuity while sharing opportunity with the world.  We are committed to opening markets, promoting exports, protecting innovation, eliminating barriers, and creating jobs.

Let me put this in perspective:  intellectual property rights directly and indirectly support hundreds of millions of jobs around the world.

In a 2011 study done by A.T. Kearny, they estimate that, when combined, sporting goods, apparel, equipment, and health and fitness spending generate as much as US $700 billion yearly or 1 percent of global GDP.

IP is often at the heart of the commercial opportunities offered within the world of sport.  IP rights (primarily trademarks, patents, and copyright/broadcasting rights) – and the legal security they offer – underpin the economic value of sport.  These rights stimulate growth within the sports industry, ensure finance for high profile sport events and organizations, and fuel sports development.  IP rights are the basis for sponsorship, merchandising, broadcasting, and media deals.  The sports industry has a meaningful and ever-expanding impact on the world economy.  The sports industry is creating jobs and investing in public infrastructure.

Today, American embassies all over the world recognize that innovation and creativity are key forces in the world of sport.  In all sports, inventors and creators work diligently to push boundaries and create new opportunities so that athletes may improve their performance and so that spectators feel that sense of awe as we watch them compete.

To celebrate World IP Day, the U.S. Embassy partnered with the Mauritius Research Council and the American Chamber of Commerce (http://amcham-mauritius.com/) to organize an all-day workshop where we explored how Mauritius can attract international investors and grow its sports economy by continuing to improve its IP ecosystem.  The Head of Innovation at Microsoft’s Global Sports Innovation Center (https://sport-gsic.com/) gave a keynote speech and met with key ministries and the Economic Development Board to map out how Mauritius can seize the opportunity presented by this year’s Indian Ocean Games to pave the way toward a new era for the sports economy in Mauritius.