Remarks by Deputy Director Russ Slifer at USPTO-AIPLA World Intellectual Property (IP) Day

USPTO Deputy Director Russ Slifer

USPTO-AIPLA World Intellectual Property (IP) Day

Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined through the art of the video game

Rayburn Foyer, Rayburn House Office Building

Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 4-6:30 p.m.

Thank you Lisa, and Shira, and good afternoon! I want to thank Lisa and the AIPLA – and all our co-hosts here today – including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the International Trademark Association (INTA), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) – for coming together today to celebrate our global intellectual property system and for taking the time to acknowledge the work of protecting artists and creative industries in our digital world. I am honored to be here with you today. World IP Day highlights and celebrates the unique role that IP plays, not just in the United States, but across the globe. And, I know that, with AIPLA’s help -- in addition events here in Washington, DC -- World IP celebrations this year are happening in at least 19 cities around the country.

 Indeed, IP has become the currency of innovation and today, here on Capitol Hill, we are reminded that intellectual property is not a partisan issue but brings us all together to support entrepreneurship, creativity, and discovery. Intellectual property is an issue that is not confined by state or national borders. IP “fuels” the spark of creativity that can lead to creative works that inspire us and inventions that enable our greatest successes. Innovation can only be constrained by the limits of one’s imagination. And, we are united in supporting an ecosystem where innovation and invention can flourish, both domestically and abroad.

With that in mind- I love the theme of this year’s World IP Day- “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined.”  The exponential growth of the video gaming industry has been nothing short of astonishing – and its products now are a part our daily lives. I’ll confess that I don’t spend my weekends gaming.  But! I do fondly remember games like pong and space invaders from the ‘80s. We can all be happy to know that while my imagination as a “gamer” was limited, other’s imaginations and creativity in this space have known no limitations. Take for example, inventor extraordinaire Ralph Baer of New Hampshire, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) in 2010 and who we all just saw in the video. Ralph is credited as the originator of video game systems and he first conceived of a system for playing video games on a standard television set back in 1966. Six years later Magnavox had licensed Ralph’s technology and released what was then known as the “Odyssey” game system. Of course Ralph didn’t stop with that one incredible invention. He continued to invent and to innovate- even developed talking books and toys for companies like Hasbro®, Milton Bradley® and Kenner®. His other inventions included electronic photo frames that enable sound to be recorded to match the photos, bicycle speedometers, and even talking doormats. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Ralph owns more than 150 patents here in the U.S. and around the world.

From Ralph’s creation of a Ping-Pong game in the late ‘60s – to other’s creations like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Frogger in the 80s – up to Nintendo’s latest Wii® U Mario Kart, video games are not just popular, they’re now part of our history and our culture. In fact, you can probably get a good idea of someone’s age by merely asking them what their favorite childhood video game was. According to the Entertainment Software Association (who has an exhibit here today), today more than 150 million Americans play video games. Popular among adults and children alike, in 2014 the video game industry sold more than 135 million games and generated more than 20 billion dollars in U.S. sales.    

But the story of this digital creativity goes beyond entertainment and sales. It can play a role in educating our nation’s youth.  In fact, we just hosted one program that connects our younger citizens with the thrill of digital creativity through video gaming. For the third year in a row, we hosted JAMTECH at our headquarters in Alexandria. JAMTECH is a “Build a Game in a Day” event that gives students in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area a chance to work with professional programmers and digital artists to design and build a video game in one day.  Using the Unity game engine, the event provides a wonderful opportunity for students who have had little or no exposure to computer science, to learn and explore the field in a fun and hands-on environment. The students learn the principles of game design, coding, and programming – skills that help them develop competencies in areas such as math, physics, analysis, logic, and strategy, all of which – as President Obama has noted – are key to our country’s technological advancement. Through our participation, and with JAMTECH’s sponsors, we educate students on the vital role IP plays in the development, protection, and marketing of new game technologies – to include patents, trademarks and copyrights.

There’s no doubt that video entertainment in all forms has revolutionized the way we engage with technology and capture both imaginations and real life. The digital video format is a powerful democratizer, in the sense that almost anyone can now purchase a digital video camera, go out and shoot video of any subject, learn how to expertly edit and enhance that raw video – and then share their creation with the world.  Today, creative artists and entrepreneurs are producing engaging works and advancing consumer-friendly innovations at a rate never before seen by people around the globe. Now all of us here today know that creators of copyrighted content face both opportunities and challenges online. The promise of IP rights can serve to inspire creation, but the enforcement of those rights requires global focus. We at the USPTO are actively engaged on this front. Just last month, President Obama delivered two copyright treaties to the Senate for their advice and consent.  These two copyright treaties: the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, serve as examples of the increasingly international importance of intellectual property rights. Specifically, the Beijing Treaty updates international standards for the protection of the intellectual property of performers in audiovisual performances, while the Marrakesh Treaty creates a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired. The USPTO led the administration’s effort in putting together the legislative implementation packages for these two treaties. We look forward to working with the Senate in 2016 on the passage and implementation of these important treaties.

Additionally, earlier this year, the USPTO co-authored a new policy paper that discusses how we can ensure that our copyright system and laws keep up with the digital age. The “White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages” addresses the nexus between online privacy policy, copyright, the global free flow of information, cybersecurity, and innovation.   Our goal is to ensure that creativity and innovation grow and thrive today and into the future. Not only do we engage policy makers, we also engage a wide range of stakeholders to shape our future.  

Thank you for inviting me here today.  The United States is proud to be one of 188 members of WIPO and it’s great to celebrate that with all of you here.  World IP Day gives us an opportunity to take stock of where we have been – and also to look to the future. As a leader in America’s Innovation agency, my daily focus is ensuring the U.S. continues to lead the world in safeguarding the rights of creators of all types. I am honored to play a role in supporting creators, innovators and entrepreneurs as they define their ideas in the form of patents, trademarks and copyrights. Thank you!