Remarks by Director Iancu at the 44th Session of the Administrative Council of ARIPO

Remarks delivered at the 44th Session of the Administrative Council of ARIPO

Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

November 16, 2020

As prepared for delivery

Hello everyone, and thank you for inviting me to be part of the 44th Session of the Administrative Council of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO). It’s my honor to join so many distinguished officials from your member countries, and I truly wish I could be there with you in person.

Congratulations on the recent addition of the Republic of Mauritius to your organization. I hope ARIPO continues to grow, and that you can serve many more inventors and creators on the African continent and beyond.

Everyone here at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the U.S. Government, extend a hearty thank you to Director General dos Santos for your leadership of ARIPO since 2013. During your tenure, you have contributed to the economic development of Africa. You have spoken eloquently about how intellectual property (IP) can transform local economies. You have focused on inventors having increased access to worldwide patent systems. You have helped those involved in local cultures, music, literature, and the arts broaden their reach to audiences around the world. And you have raised the profile of ARIPO and built a beautiful headquarters, as well as an extensive network on IP issues in Africa.

To the members of ARIPO, your work is more important than ever before. Providing strong intellectual property rights protection and enforcement will enrich local economies, attract foreign investment, support tech transfer, and improve the quality of life for the 1.3 billion people living in Africa. Your commitment to increasing the IP assets of the continent is especially important, as the population of Africa is projected to almost double to 2.5 billion by 2050. And with four of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world located in Africa from 2010 to 2019, the opportunities for innovation continue to expand.

Here at the USPTO, we are vigilant advocates for the intellectual property system that is crucial for economic growth and progress. In the U.S., startups based on novel technologies create two out of every three new jobs. And while intellectual property was written into the U.S. Constitution more than 200 years ago, it still takes constant effort to balance the interests of all parties involved in innovation.

There is a lot we can learn from each other. The preamble to the Lusaka Agreement, for example, makes a strong case for our endeavors. It says that we must be “aware of the advantages to be derived… from the effective and continuous exchange of information and the harmonization and co-ordination of laws, policies, and activities in intellectual property matters.”

Sound IP policy offers clear, timely, and enforceable rights. It also provides ARIPO with the opportunity to engage with more of the world’s inventors, creators, and companies who need strong IP protection and enforcement to operate in your markets. As Director General dos Santos has stated to audiences around Africa: increasing the continent’s share of global patents is a worthwhile goal. We welcome the submission of more patent applications to the USPTO from African-based inventors. 

I was also pleased to see that the Protocol on Patents and Industrial Designs and the Protocol on Marks were updated recently. It’s an indication of the commitment of member countries to ARIPO, and the importance of cooperation in addressing common IP challenges.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office pledges to help in any way we can. We look forward to continuing our ongoing collaboration with ARIPO on training, capacity building, and outreach, as is described in our Memorandum of Understanding.

We are committed to participating in additional joint training programs that are planned on trademarks, patents and designs, trade secrets, copyrights, and enforcement.  And we will also work with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Nigeria Office, the African Union, and individual African countries on stimulating innovation and creativity throughout the continent.

The motto of the United States used since the founding of the country more than 200 years ago applies to all of us today: e pluribus unum—out of many, one. As you have done at ARIPO. Strength is derived from diversity, inclusion, and cooperation, and I commend your efforts in this regard. Providing the proper IP protections and enforcement to accelerate innovation and promote creativity by as many people as possible is more important now than ever before.

Thank you, again, for inviting me to be part of your day. I hope you have a very productive meeting, and I look forward to hearing about your plans and your progress.