The blasted desk calendar that promised to remind me of all important holidays almost failed me miserably. How is it possible that a calendar that tells me that January 2 is a bank holiday in the UK, that February 6 is Waitangi Day in New Zealand, that March 13 is Eight Hours Day in Australia, and that July 12 is Battle of the Boyne Day in Northern Ireland, could possibly forget to mention that April 26 is World Intellectual Property Day! After all, World Intellectual Property Day is one of those global holidays celebrated all around the world, right? It is sort of universal, almost like Christmas and New Years Eve, although with substantially less hoopla. But not too much less hoopla this year given that today marks the 10th Anniversary, or birthday if you prefer, of World Intellectual Property Day. So, despite my faulty desk calendar, I thankfully remembered that April 26 is World Intellectual Property Day!
So what is World Intellectual Property Day? Well back in 2000, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) member states decided to designate a World Intellectual Property Day to raise awareness of the role of intellectual property in our daily lives, and to celebrate the contribution made by innovators and artists to the development of societies around the world. The date selected for celebrating World Intellectual Property Day was April 26, which was chosen because it was April 26, 1970 when the Convention establishing WIPO entered into force. So tomorrow also marks the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of WIPO.
Although the decision to have a World Intellectual Property Day was made in 2000, the first celebration of the holiday occurred on April 26, 2001. It has been celebrated by WIPO each year since, with a different theme or focal point selected to highlight the merriment. The focus of the 2010 Day is how innovation technologies have created an interlinked and global society. In a message marking World Intellectual Property Day 2010, Francis Gurry, the Director General of WIPO, explains:
Relatively few decades ago, the world remained vast and largely unknown for most people. Travel was costly and long. Knowledge was paper-based and hard to share. Telephone service was, in many places, non-existent. Outside of large cities, access to foreign culture and the arts was limited.
Rapid innovation and its global adoption has transformed our outlook. We are now linked – physically, intellectually, socially and culturally – in ways that were impossible to imagine. We can cross continents in a few hours. From almost anywhere on the planet, we can access information, see and speak to each other, select music, and take and send photographs, using a device small enough to fit in the palm of a hand.
This universal connectivity, sustained by the Web and wireless technology, has huge implications for the future. With the “death of distance”, we are no longer limited by physical location – and the benefits are legion.
Web-based learning frees intellectual potential in previously isolated communities, helping to reduce the knowledge gap between nations. Sophisticated video-conferencing techniques reduce business travel, diminishing our carbon footprint. Mobile telephony, already used by over half the world’s population, transforms lives and communities: Solar powered mobiles are helping track disease, run small businesses, and coordinate disaster relief in areas previously out of reach.
Rapid data management and exchange speed the innovation cycle, facilitating collective innovation and promoting mutually beneficial collaboration between companies, research institutions and individuals. At the same time, digital technologies are enabling like-minded people to create virtual platforms from which to work on common projects and goals – such as WIPO’s web-based stakeholders’ platform, aimed at facilitating access to copyrighted content for the estimated 314 million persons with visual and print disabilities world wide.
Innovative technologies are creating a truly global society. The intellectual property system is part of this linking process. It facilitates the sharing of information – such as the wealth of technological know-how contained in WIPO’s free data banks. It provides a framework for trading and disseminating technologies. It offers incentives to innovate and compete. It helps structure the collaboration needed to meet the daunting global challenges, such as climate change and spiraling energy needs, confronting us all.
WIPO is dedicated to ensuring that the intellectual property system continues to serve its most fundamental purpose of encouraging innovation and creativity; and that the benefits of the system are accessible to all – helping to bring the world closer.
Given that there are no presents given to little children, no day off from work, no fireworks and no celebration of the men and women who turn ideas into magic, patent professionals can be excused from celebrating World Intellectual Property Day in any official capacity. After all, we have work to do to protect those tangible manifestations of ideas and turn them into assets capable of providing employment for workers and funding for further breakthroughs and advancements. But if you are so inclined to say a nice word to your patent attorney or patent agent, the support team working for your patent attorney or patent agent, or at least not complain about your bill on Monday, April 26, 2010, that would be greatly appreciated!
Happy World Intellectual Property Day to you and yours!