IP Day: Focus on women’s creativity | Sunday Observer

IP Day: Focus on women’s creativity

23 April, 2023

Imagine creating a new work of art, music or a book. It can also be a totally new invention in any field such as medicine, aerospace and motoring. That can be called an Intellectual Property (IP), because someone had used his or her intellect to create it from the ground up. But then, someone comes along and steals that idea often without paying or even informing the original creator. This is grossly unfair by the owner of the original work.

The theft of IP is a global problem. Here in Colombo, if you walk to any DVD shop, you can find plenty of pirated movies. This negates the efforts and creativity of the original artistes. This is just one aspect that is highlighted on the World Intellectual Property Day which is celebrated every year on April 26.

The global campaign offers a unique annual opportunity to join others around the globe to celebrate inventors and creators around the world and to explore how IP contributes to a thriving music and arts scene and drives the technological innovation that helps shape our world. World IP Day is an opportunity to highlight the role that IP rights, such as, patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright, play in encouraging innovation and creativity.

A balanced IP system

A balanced IP system recognises and rewards inventors and creators for their work and ensures that society benefits from their creativity and ingenuity. IP rights provide the means by which researchers, inventors, businesses, designers, artists and others can legally protect their innovative and creative outputs and secure an economic return from them. For example, an author gets a royalty fee every time one of his or her books is sold and the same goes for a singer whose songs are played on radio.

Still, the IP system is no free lunch. Only when a work meets certain established criteria will it qualify for IP protection. A song, or a movie, for example, only qualifies for copyright protection if it is original. Similarly, a technology has to be groundbreaking (i.e. novel and useful) to qualify for a patent. Moreover, to obtain a patent, an inventor is obliged to make details of her invention public so that others can build on the technology after paying for the rights. In fact, many inventions are later successfully improved on by others. One example is video tape, invented by AMPEX in 1957, but it was Japanese companies such as Sony and Panasonic that actually improved the tape formulations and introduced video cassettes for home use in the mid-1970s.

An effective IP system that balances the interests of inventors and creators with those of society as a whole has proven an effective way to encourage inventors and creators to invest their time, energy and ingenuity into developing new technologies and new forms of creative expression that both improve and enrich our lives. There are many inventors in Sri Lanka who have made outstanding products, but unfortunately they sometimes lack the knowledge for patenting and commercialising their products. Many schoolgirls and young women are among these inventors. The Inventors Commission of Sri Lanka should address this lacuna.

Diverse and inclusive

As per the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), an environment in which innovation and creativity can thrive, and which is diverse and inclusive, improves our chances of addressing the major challenges facing humanity, driving human progress, and making our lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable.

In 2023, the world will celebrate the “can do” attitude of women inventors, creators and entrepreneurs around the world and their ground-breaking work. Women in all regions are shaping the world through their imagination, ingenuity and hard work, but often face significant challenges in accessing the knowledge, skills, resources and support they need to thrive. Women make up nearly half of the global population and represent a huge pool of talent, which remains largely untapped.

Women in all regions are shaping the world through their imagination, ingenuity and hard work, but often face significant challenges in accessing the knowledge, skills, resources and support they need to thrive. Research commissioned by WIPO is helping to identify the multi-faceted barriers that may exclude women from using IP services. In addition to the lack of IP knowledge, women often lack access to networks, mentors, sponsor and role models; face difficulties in securing financial resources; confront negative bias and bear the burden of care responsibilities within their families. These barriers mean that too few women are benefitting from the worldwide IP system.

According to WIPO data released in March 2023, it is estimated that only 16.2 percent of inventors named in international patent applications were women in 2022. While numbers are rising, progress is slow. WIPO estimates that, at current rates, parity among Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)-listed inventors will only be reached in 2064.

Building economic resilience for recovery

At a time when building economic resilience for recovery is a top priority, connecting women with the IP system to accelerate innovation, creativity and business growth, is more important than ever, according to WIPO. It makes economic sense and it is the right thing to do. Innovation and creativity are the drivers of economic growth. However, there is an imbalance in gender participation when it comes to inventive and creative tasks, as seen from the data available from the IP system. Disparities exist on the use of the IP system by women and other groups. WIPO is working to bridge them.

For World Intellectual Property Day 2023, all countries must come together to promote the development of more inclusive and diverse IP ecosystems that accelerate innovation, creativity and business growth for the benefit of all, including women. The Government and the relevant authorities should scrutinise the efficacy of the current IP laws here and update any laws that do not fit in with modern times or do not address new IP challenges. It should engage in a media campaign to promote the concept of IP and raise awareness on it. We should bring our IP laws in line with the rest of the world.