Posted by: Alexander Ryan, Economic Officer
I traveled to Crimea September 12 to represent the Embassy at Ukraine’s 18th international conference on intellectual property rights (IPR). The conference, organized by the State Intellectual Property Service of Ukraine and the World Intellectual Property Organization, featured participants from government, private industry, and the NGO sector. I heard that there were participants from over 14 countries, including the United States, Germany, Russia, and China.
Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to discuss the current state of IPR protection in Ukraine and what Ukraine can do to improve its protection of IPR. While Ukraine has made some improvements over the past five years, unfortunately, IPR protection in the country remains insufficient.
Why is a robust system of IPR protection important for Ukraine? Most basically, protecting IPR is essential to promote the creativity and ingenuity of researchers, scientists, artists, and engineers, who are at the forefront of technological developments and innovative solutions. If people don’t think they will be paid for their work, it takes away the motivation to create and innovate. Protecting innovation will improve the investment climate and increase economic growth.
It’s also a question of fairness. Ukrainian and U.S. workers deserve to benefit from their own labor. And U.S. and Ukrainian companies deserve to benefit from their investments in capital, innovation and human resources. Many innovators take enormous risks and should be able to enjoy the returns when those risks lead to success.
What could Ukraine do to better protect IPR? In October 2010, the U.S. and Ukraine agreed to an Action Plan to improve intellectual property rights. Fully implementing the plan, which includes measures to increase public awareness, needed legislative improvements, greater enforcement, and measures to transition Government of Ukraine ministries to legal software, would be a big step forward so that Ukraine could become a country that rewards innovation and creativity.
I left the conference convinced that Ukraine has many professionals at the working level, especially at the State Intellectual Property Service of Ukraine, focused on improving focused on the IPR situation in the country. However, it will take a coordinated effort across the Government of Ukraine—and sustained attention from higher level government officials in the country—to make IPR protection a reality.
I want to note that the U.S. Embassy greatly values our cooperation with the Government of Ukraine, and will continue to look for ways to implement the IPR Action Plan. One of the ways we do this is by holding various trainings in IPR protection and enforcement, such as training for Ukrainian investigators and prosecutors. We also have supported training for Ukrainian small and medium size businesses and academic institutions on how to best utilize their intellectual property.
While the conference was interesting and productive, my favorite part of traveling to Crimea was the opportunity I had to visit Sevastopol National Technical University. At the University, I first spoke with a class of philology and economic students about the U.S. Embassy. Since I am an Economic Officer, I also gave a presentation about Ukraine’s negotiations with the European Union to sign a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), and about the benefits this agreement would bring to Ukraine. After speaking with the University students, I spoke with a group of about 30 students from the ACCESS program. This program is supported by the U.S. Department of State and provides after-school English classes to 14 to 18 year old students who would otherwise not have the opportunity. I really enjoyed the chance to meet with both groups of students who had great questions about working at the Embassy and about life in the United States.