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Policy > External Affairs > Agenda > An East Africa Regional Seminar on: Copyright Enforcement in the Internet Era - May 19 - 21, 2009, in Nairobi, Kenya

DCM Pamela Slutz
Opening Remarks (draft)
USPTO Conference on Copyright in the Digital Era
Nairobi, Kenya
May 19 – 21, 2009

  • On behalf of Ambassador Ranneberger and the US Patent and Trademark Office, I am very happy to welcome you to this Conference. This is, I believe, the first in a series of programs on intellectual property rights that we hope to provide for government leaders from East Africa’s leading economies, and I am very glad to see so many of you have been able to find time in your schedules to come.
  • This first program focuses on copyright protection. Copyright is particularly important to East Africa – each of your countries possesses a unique cultural patrimony that is extremely attractive to the rest of the world. While your economies are growing in many industries, both old and new, your cultural creativity has long been admired throughout the world.
  • There is also a cadre of very bright innovators in software, cell phone communications and internet applications at work here in East Africa. Many expect the introduction of fiberoptic cable to our region to trigger a host of new businesses, and not only in business process outsourcing – although we expect strong growth and innovation there, too.
  • I would like to share an historical perspective on intellectual property rights with you. Before the United States was a country, three hundred years ago when we were still a British colony, our forefathers did not respect patents, trademarks or copyrights. We were not yet a nation. Today, a Tanzanian or Ethiopian innovator’s copyright, legally registered in the US, receives full and complete protection under our law.
  • There are at least two very important reasons why the US strongly defends copyright, and other intellectual property. First, because we must protect our citizens from harm. Illegal and sub-standard medicines, for example, cost the lives of thousands or tens of thousands of people every year. Secondly, we must reward innovators, inventors and creative artists so that they will continue to create – because we all benefit from their creativity.
  • Many of the same countries that today are exporting illegal copies and sub-standard products to East Africa are also applying for copyrights, trademarks and patents all over the world at a furious rate. China is filing tens of thousands of applications for protection all over the world. Why do you suppose they are doing this?
  • I am certain you have heard stories of foreigners filing copyright claims for textile designs that originated in your countries.
  • It is important that your intellectual property and cultural patrimony be protected, and your innovators – your creative artists and engineers – be rewarded for their work.
  • Your musicians, your film industries, and the artisans who carry forward a thousand years of cultural tradition – all deserve and need a legal regime that rewards them for their creativity. Your software engineers and business innovators should receive the same advantages as those with whom they compete in other countries. East Africa needs a strong intellectual property rights regime.
  • While none of us can predict today the many ways in which Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya will surprise the world over the next twenty years, we are equally convinced that you will do so. There is too much talent here.
  • We hope that the fruit of your work together this week will be a strong legal and regulatory system that will protect copyright effectively in East Africa. I hope that you will continue to work with the US Embassies in your countries to see what more we can do together to this end.
  • Thank you, Mr. Hardman, for launching this initiative in East Africa. And I would like to thank you all for your work today, to build the foundation for tomorrow’s economic strength.

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