EDITORIAL: New strategies needed to improve IP


The issue of intellectual property (IP) has once again been the subject of some discussion in Barbados. Both Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite and Assistant Commissioner of Police Mark Thompson spoke to the issue recently during the Crime Stoppers International conference held here. IP is not a sexy issue and our focus tends to be primarily on the issue of piracy. There is no doubt piracy remains a challenge, with many people selling illegal DVDs and music.    
This has a negative effect on the owners of rights in films and music and can prevent the growth of our cultural industries. But our focus on intellectual property must be less reactive and ad hoc. It is a very broad field closely tied to creativity and innovation and forms the basis of many industries. It ranges from the use of trademarks for branding purposes, design for the fashion and furniture industries and other areas to patents for technical innovations and of course copyright, which not only our musicians rely on but also book authors, visual artists and many others. The Internet and e-commerce have only added to the challenges.
Intellectual property is important not only to the economies of large industrialized countries but small states such as ours. Its importance to future economic development has encouraged Singapore to implement an economic development strategy focusing specifically on cultural and creative industries. Hong Kong also plans to become an intellectual property hub, developing national capacity in terms of innovation. It also wants to attract foreign companies which own, manage and commercialize intellectual property rights.    
Our economy is at a crossroads and the dangerous vulnerability of heavy reliance on a few industries, mainly tourism and financial industries, is evident. We need to find a new approach. A first step would be to have a strategic and comprehensive approach to intellectual property. This would mean developing a national strategy for not only intellectual property but also related areas such as innovation and human resource development, including the development of expertise.    
Another important area to be addressed is the ability to enforce copyright. Our artists have for many years complained about the difficulties they face enforcing their rights, which tends to be a long, expensive and frustrating process. Mr Thompson must therefore act and not just talk.    
Education will be important in ensuring corporate Barbados, creators and innovators and the general public understand IP and its incorporation in business strategies. In spite of the sporadic mentions to intellectual property, the fact is that it remains a little understood and therefore, largely unappreciated area.    
When Parliament discusses IP this week, Mr Brathwaite must ensure the debate is not bound up in legal jargon. This must be seen as a practical issue earning money, creating jobs and developing creativity. He must remove the veil from around the IP issue.


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