Intellectual Property: a Power Tool for Economic Growth

Geneva, February 12, 2003
Press Release PR/2003/337

In a new publication, entitled "Intellectual Property: A Power Tool for Economic Growth", the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, shows how countries can use the intellectual property system to leverage their intangible assets - such as inventiveness, creativity and knowledge - to promote economic development and wealth creation. The book underscores how strategic use of the intellectual property system can add value to these assets, illustrating Dr. Idris's central message, that intellectual property is a "power tool" for economic growth that is not yet being used to optimal effect in all countries, particularly in the developing world.

In presenting the book, Dr. Idris notes that, "intellectual property is native to all peoples and relevant in all times and cultures, and has historically contributed to the progress of societies. It is a force that can be used to enrich the lives of individuals and the future of nations - materially, culturally and socially". The book seeks to explain how this enrichment takes place by demystifying intellectual property and describing not only the "what" but also the "why" and the "how" of the subject. It is a practical guide to identifying, understanding and using those intangible assets, which are rapidly replacing traditional and tangible assets such as land, labor and capital, as the driving forces of economic health and well-being.

The publication traces the evolution of intellectual property from its origins in renaissance northern Italy to its rising prominence in today's knowledge economy as a key element in wealth creation. Drawing on concrete examples, it explores ways in which countries may leverage intellectual property to foster economic growth, by encouraging private investment in research and development, and attracting foreign direct investment, for example. It also discusses the role and practical application of conventional types of intellectual property (e.g. patents, trademarks, geographical indications, and copyright and related rights) and explains, using case study material, how these tools can be used to promote business development and economic growth, supporting the assertion that "IP is now one of the most valuable, or often the most valuable, asset in commercial transactions."

The book underlines the relevance of the patent system to businesses in all countries - from multinationals to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - which can benefit from accumulating IP assets and engaging in IP licensing transactions. This activity can promote competition and create profitable business opportunities that provide jobs, job training, and human resource development, supply needed goods and services, and increase business and individual income".

Governments and policy-makers are encouraged to adopt pro-active patent policies (PPP) to jump-start domestic knowledge development, fuel the national innovation cycle and clamp down on counterfeiting and piracy activities. In discussing issues of enforcement of intellectual property rights, the importance of developing an IP culture built on an awareness of the importance of intellectual property and respect for the rights of innovators and creators is underlined, because, "enforcement is a multi-layered concept. It cannot be approached only through the police, customs and courts. Without political will, the appropriate legislative framework and an IP culture, there can be no enforcement, and ultimately, the country and its economy will suffer".

The publication also explores the evolutionary character of the intellectual property system, for example, the potential value of newly recognized intellectual assets, such as traditional knowledge and folklore and it examines the relationship between intellectual property and the sustainable economic development of countries rich in such assets. Among other issues of major importance, Dr. Idris outlines WIPO's Patent Agenda, designed to spearhead discussions on the development of a strategic blueprint for the future evolution of the international patent system. This initiative, launched in October 2001, is a response to the many emerging logistical and policy challenges confronting the international patent system.

The volume concludes with an explanation of the concept of IP empowerment and WIPO's role in translating this notion into reality. Dr. Idris states "One of the primary objectives of WIPO in the implementation of its IP empowerment strategy will be to establish a global community consisting of individuals, governments, businesses, and other relevant constituencies, all of whom will be making active use of intellectual property and the supporting IP systems as powerful tools facilitating the growth, development, and enhancement of knowledge-based economies. By spreading an IP culture and creating a global intellectual property minded community the Organization can contribute to the social, economic and cultural well-being of nations."

The book may be ordered via the Marketing and Distribution Section, 34, chemin des Colombettes, CH-1211 Geneva 20 (Switzerland); Tel: (41 22) 338-9244 / 8412; Fax: (4122) 740-1812; e-mail: A brief, 35-page OverviewPDF, Secrets of Intellectual Property: a guide for small and medium-sized exporters of the publication is also available.

For further information please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section Section at WIPO: