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Celebrating the Power of Ideas

The English author H.G. Wells is thought to have said, “Human history is, in essence, the history of ideas.” How right he was considering the visionary innovators who have transformed the world with great ideas. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Johann Gutenberg, plus more modern day icons such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates — to name but a few. It is the achievements of these and many others that we celebrate on World Intellectual Property Day.

Where do we begin to look for what’s next? Today, IP is one of the most important economic assets fueling the digital economy. The legal framework for protecting copyright, patents, and trademarks is a fundamental building block for most developed economies.

What is perhaps more interesting is to consider the growing importance of IP in emerging markets. At a roundtable event in Beijing earlier this month, US Ambassador to China Gary Locke spoke of the growing importance of IP protection to Chinese innovators who are increasingly creating intellectual capital of their own. “Stronger IPR enforcement is essential to protect the work of Chinese writers and musicians, to provide incentives for Chinese firms to invest in research and development, and to help China foster an innovative and prosperous society,” he said. While problems in IP protection in China exist in abundance, IPR is no longer an issue for foreign companies alone. There are growing numbers of Chinese innovators who realize that IPR protection is fundamental to their economic prospects.

It is not just China sitting on the precipice of an IP revolution. Emerging economies as a whole are outpacing mature markets in their rate of growth. In no industry is this shift more prominent than technology, wherein emerging markets took in more than half of the world’s new PC shipments in 2011, and now account for more than half of all PCs in use. With the burgeoning cloud computing market bringing infinitely scalable computing power to businesses and consumers around the world, the foundation is being laid for a new leap forward in the IT revolution. This puts enormous pressure on governments in emerging economies to modernize their copyright and intellectual property laws to keep pace with technological developments.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry says in his World Intellectual Property Day message, “Intellectual property is, by definition, about change, about the new. It is about achieving the transformations that we want to achieve in society.” So while we recognize the significant achievements that have come before; today we also celebrate the promise of new ideas to come. BSA and its member companies will continue to work with governments, policymakers, and organizations to advance practices and policies that encourage and protect future innovation.

Robert Holleyman

Author:

As President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance from 1990 until April 2013, Robert Holleyman long served as the chief advocate for the global software industry. Before leaving BSA to start his own venture, Cloud4Growth, Holleyman led the most successful anti-piracy program in the history of any industry, driving down software piracy rates in markets around the world.

Named one of the 50 most influential people in the intellectual property world, he was instrumental in putting into place the global policy framework that today protects software under copyright law. A widely respected champion for open markets, Holleyman also was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, the principal advisory committee for the US government on trade matters.

Holleyman was a leader in industry efforts to establish the legal framework necessary for cloud-computing technologies to flourish. He was an early proponent for policies that promote deployment of security technologies to build public trust and confidence in cyberspace. And he created a highly regarded series of forums for industry executives and policymakers to exchange points of view and forge agreements on the best ways to spur technology advances and promote economic growth.

Before heading BSA, Holleyman was a counselor and legislative adviser in the United States Senate, an attorney in private practice, and a judicial clerk in US District Court. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, a J.D. from Louisiana State University, and has completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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