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Protecting Intellectual Property

Intellectual property laws protect more than assets – they protect creativity, entrepreneurship, and most importantly – people. Intellectual property rights [IPR] are the legal means to ensure products and services are genuine, and to encourage innovation and creativity.

Copyright laws protect literary and artistic works, and computer programs; while patent laws protect and encourage new and improved products and processes. Trademark laws protect and encourage the development and maintenance of high-quality products and services, and help companies promote customer loyalty.

Violation of these laws through counterfeiting and piracy spans a wide range of industries and products. Counterfeit products like car parts and electrical components are produced and consumed around the globe, as are pirated movie DVDs, music CDs and other copyrighted works. Counterfeit drugs account for roughly 10 percent of all medicines sold globally, and up to 30 percent of medicines sold in the developing world.

Trade in counterfeit and pirated goods threatens the health and safety of consumers and economies around the world, and has caused global financial losses in the hundreds of millions. These losses benefit international organized crime networks who increasingly use counterfeiting and piracy as a low-risk, high-revenue means of financing illicit activities, including terrorism.

Consistent and coordinated IPR enforcement helps protect society from dangerous, defective counterfeit consumer products that infringers make and sell. The World Trade Organization Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights is the most comprehensive international agreement on IPR, establishing standards for its protection and enforcement.

Without strong and coordinated IPR protection, infringers often go unpunished and reap huge gains at public expense, while harming production and trade of legitimate goods. It's in every country's interest to promote and protect intellectual property rights to safeguard their intellectual assets, increase consumer welfare, and develop globally competitive products and services.

Strong IPR protection and enforcement ensure inventors, creators and other risk-takers can be rewarded for their ingenuity and investment in innovation. To thrive, knowledge-based industries rely on the protection of innovation, creativity, cultural diversity and technological development.

Protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights helps to drive long term economic development by stimulating job growth in primary and supporting industries, and increases in work force skill development. As the leaders of the G-8 nations recognized in 2007, "A fully functioning intellectual property system is an essential factor for the sustainable development of the global economy through promoting innovation."