To the outside world, Ethiopia is famed for its rich and unique cultural heritage, a wide offering of historical attractions and an array of high-quality handicrafts and agricultural products, including coffee.
“As the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organizations (WIPO) – the United Nations specialized agency that is the global forum for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation – I am honoured to be able to accept the invitation from the Ethiopian Government to visit this wonderful country,” Organization press release quoted Director General Francis Gurry as saying.
“I am particularly enthusiastic about my trip to Addis Ababa because it gives me the chance to see how much Ethiopia has to offer, as well as gain from, the global IP system.”
The press release also said that the Ethiopian economy is projected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to continue expanding, extending a many-year run of growth that is among the strongest in Africa. According to the IMF, Ethiopia has made considerable progress toward reaching its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the same time, goods and services are growing as a proportion of the overall economy, where agriculture has long predominated.
The release said that IP is an important component of international trade, cultural and economic activity. “IP rights capture the value of innovation, creating a secure environment for investment in innovation and providing a legal framework for trading in intellectual assets. Ethiopia’s potential to benefit from IP is huge,” it added.
“Because Ethiopia’s cultural achievements are well- known beyond its borders, this country is well situated to take advantage of the global IP system,” Francis Gurry said.
Already, Ethiopian coffee is being marketed overseas under trademark-protected names like Harrar® and Yirgacheffee®. This is one good example of IP usage: distinguishing a product with a term or look that is recognizable to consumers. In this way, products such as Ethiopian coffee are elevated from being a simple commodity to a distinctive product for which consumers may be willing to pay more.
The Director General said: “At WIPO, we hope to further cooperate with our member states to gain equitable access to these systems that are utilized worldwide to great benefit. Already, WIPO is engaged in Ethiopia in many ways.”
“Right here in Addis, we have worked with the Ethiopian government to establish a public research and resource center where Ethiopians can access WIPO’s powerful databases, which innovators around the world use to seek out patent and other information that can help them with their own innovations.”
We are also cooperating with the Ethiopian government to update its intellectual property network – the infrastructure that links Ethiopia’s filing and searching activities – to that of WIPO and the rest of the world. Our staff has also organized training for Ethiopian officials, including those who have had the opportunity to see how other nations organize and run their own PI-related offices.
In recent years, WIPO has increased activities that stand to benefit Ethiopians, East Africans and people across the continent.“We have helped established WIPO Re:Search, a consortium of private and public sector organizations all working together toward a common goal: New diagnostic tools and treatments for neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis,” the Director General said.
WIPO Green, launched late last year, aims to link up groups seeking to address climate change – offering a unique opportunity to connect individuals and firms seeking to pool together their IP and other resources in partnerships that are greater than the sums of their parts. “This could be particularly advantageous for Ethiopians who have an idea or a technology, but not necessarily the means or contacts to scale-up their activities.”
WIPO’s member states adopted two new treaties in 2012 and 2013, including one that is meant to help put books into the hands of visually impaired persons, most of whom live in the developing world. The other shores up the rights of actors in their audiovisual performances. These agreements – the Beijing and Marrakesh treaties – still need ratification to unlock their benefits, however.
In addition, we continue working on finding ways of ensuring that indigenous persons enjoy the economic benefits of their patrimony. So WIPO, in collaboration with private and public entities, including Ethiopia, has made real advancements recently. But important work remains to be done.
“It is my great hope that WIPO can further strengthen its partnership for development with the Government and people of Ethiopia to harness their country’s own recent economic achievements and find new ways of promoting the country and its unique culture on the global stage,” Francis Gurry said.