Posted by: Alex Ryan, Economic Officer
World Intellectual Property Day was April 26 – a day better known in Ukraine as the anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, but is also the anniversary of the founding of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1967. We decided to mark World Intellectual Property Day one day later out of respect for the victims of Chornobyl.
This year’s theme for World Intellectual Property Day — “visionary innovators” — recognizes the special contributions made by artists, scientists, and other innovators all over the world. Visit the website of the WIPO for more information.
The protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) is a frequent topic of discussion during bilateral economic discussions between the United States and Ukraine, including at the annual U.S.-Ukraine Trade and Investment Council (TIC). At the 2010 TIC, the U.S. and Ukraine agreed to a wide-ranging Action Plan to improve the protection of IPR. Unfortunately, the Government of Ukraine has made minimal progress in implementing the components of the plan. This does not only hurt U.S. companies operating in Ukraine. The poor IPR environment in Ukraine equally hurts Ukrainian companies and Ukrainian innovators—its scientists and artists.
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. Without protecting intellectual property, the Government of Ukraine risks stifling innovation before it begins. If Ukraine wants to become a modern economy, it must work to improve its protection of IPR.
It’s also a question of fairness. U.S. and Ukrainian companies also deserve to benefit from their investments in capital, innovation and human resources. Ukrainian and U.S. researchers, scientists and entrepreneurs deserve to benefit from their enormous efforts. Many innovators take enormous risks and should be able to enjoy the returns when their risks lead to success.
The U.S. Embassy greatly values our cooperation with the Government of Ukraine and will continue to assist Ukraine in better protecting IPR. One of the ways we do this is by holding various trainings on IPR protection and enforcement. In 2011 for example, the U.S. government supported programs to increase enforcement against counterfeit medicines and internet piracy.
In addition to supporting programs to increase IPR enforcement, the U.S. Government also supports innovation and the commercialization of scientific research in Ukraine. While Ukraine has a strong scientific tradition, today’s Ukrainian scientists suffer because they cannot protect their innovations and intellectual property.
One of the important ways that the U.S. government supports innovation and IPR in Ukraine is through the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU). Funded by the European Union, Canada, and the United States, STCU assists scientists from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Georgia to work on self-supporting, peaceful activities and research.
While STCU supports a wide variety of programs to support CIS scientists, I want to focus today on its programs to support commercialization — the turning of innovative ideas into products that can be sold in the marketplace. As an example of its efforts in this field, STCU has sponsored a program since 2006 to create Chief Technology Commercialization Officers (CTCO) in Ukrainian scientific institutes. These officers, who are given in-depth training in matters related to patenting, licensing, and starting spin-off companies, support the institute’s commercialization efforts.
Another example of STCU’s work to support commercialization is its Science for Business (S4B) initiative. Funded by the U.S. government, the S4B initiative was launched in February 2012 by U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, STCU Executive Director Michael Einik, Borys Grinyov of the Ukrainian State Agency of Science, Innovation, and Informatisation, and Michael Zgurovsky, Rector of National Technical University of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute. The goal of S4B is to develop the capacity of Ukrainian scientific institutes to generate revenue through effective commercialization of their innovations. In other words, when Ukrainian scientists and institutes come up with new ideas or inventions, the S4B program works to help those scientists and institutes turn those ideas and inventions into products that can be commercially sold. This allows scientists and institutes to be rewarded for their efforts and helps provide revenue that can support scientists’ salaries, laboratories, and hence more research and innovation.
As one concrete example of such commercialization efforts, STCU worked with the Kharkiv Institute of Experimental and Clinical Veterinary Medicine as they created a low-cost test kit for the rapid diagnoses of a fatal disease (Aujeszky Disease) which occurs in pigs and other animals. STCU helped the Institute to commercialize the diagnostic kits by helping with product certification, market assessment, packaging design and developing the production line and overall business plan. The resulting sales from turning these testing kits into a commercial product brought needed revenue to the Institute and its scientists and also helped support the overall agriculture community by providing a much needed product.
An essential element of all of these efforts to turn innovation into revenue for Ukrainian institutes and Ukrainian scientists is the robust protection of intellectual property, both in Ukraine and internationally. If institutes and scientists cannot protect their patents and license new inventions without their innovations and patents being stolen, they will not be able to commercialize their products and will lose their motivation to innovate.
For these reasons, the inadequate protection of intellectual property rights hampers growth in the Ukrainian high-technology sector and reduces knowledge-based jobs. Through constructive IPR development and protection, Ukrainian scientific institutes and technical universities will have the motivation and opportunity to take their technologies to a global market. Protecting innovation in this way will benefit the institutes and universities, the scientific innovators and engineers, while at the same time growing the high technology sector of the Ukrainian economy and creating knowledge-based jobs.