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World IP Day to mark IP’s role in boosting sustainable development

Sustainable development has become a global priority, and the intersection between this and intellectual property (IP) rights is increasingly relevant.

The relationship between IP and sustainable development has evolved significantly over time, with IP playing a pivotal role in economic growth, innovation, and societal welfare due to the ways it protects the rights of inventors. IP also helps to encourage a competitive environment.

IP rights comprise a variety of different rights including patents, trade marks, designs, copyright and geographical indications.

Patents grant inventors exclusive rights to utilise and commercialise their inventions for a set period, typically 20 years, while disclosing the invention’s technical details to the public. Trade marks help identify company products or services through distinctive signs such as logos, aiding consumer recognition and preserving brand identify. Copyright secures the rights of creators to exclusively reproduce, distribute and showcase their original works, while industrial designs protect the visual appearance of items. Finally, geographical indications link products to their unique regional characteristics, ensuring the authenticity and quality of these goods.

IP rights are crucial for fostering innovation and creativity, providing a balance between exclusive rights for creators and access for the public.

Since the establishment of “World IP Day” in 2000 by the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), there has been a great effort to enhance the awareness and importance of IP worldwide.

The annual event celebrates global investors and creators, highlighting IP rights’ impact on cultural and technological advancements.

This year, the theme focuses on the link between IP and sustainable development goals (SDGs). The theme sets out to address how IP impacts climate, addressing the ongoing climate crisis. This year’s World IP Day will work to highlights the ways in which IP rights will play an important part in realising the goals, with 17 set out in total.

The 17 goals were set out by world leaders in 2015 with aims to create a better world by 2030 by ending poverty, fighting inequality, and addressing the urgency of climate change. The SDGs vary from gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy to no poverty, zero hunger, and reasonable consumption and production.

Each SDG outlines specific targets and areas for development, emphasising the need for a balanced approach to sustainability.

IP rights are important when working towards SDGs as they help create an environment that supports innovation and sustainable practices by encouraging creators to come up with inventive solutions that fit into the SDGs.

For instance, SDG 6 commits to ensuring everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. IP rights underpin the development of sustainable water management innovations. These enhancements include digital water systems utilising artificial intelligence, 5G, blockchain and many other technologies, advanced filtration materials for purifying water, and portable desalination units.

SDG 7 is also supported by IP rights. This goal aims to provide sustainable, reliable, and affordable modern energy to all, facilitated by IP rights that drive creation of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles, to name a few. Companies leverage their IP rights to fund innovations that make renewable energy sources like wind and solar more accessible and manageable.

IP rights also help to support SDGs related to people. SDG 17, on partnerships, aims to bolster the mechanisms for global collaboration on sustainable development. IP nurtures these partnerships essential for fostering innovation and creativity to meet these goals. IP rights also enable the sharing of scientific knowledge and innovations, turning them into social benefits.

Educational goals are assisted by IP rights, too. SDG 4 promotes inclusive, equitable education and lifelong learning for all. IP education equips individuals with the skills to innovate and create technologies, products, and services that benefit humanity and the environment. Policymakers gain insights into IP laws, aiding the formulation of innovation-friendly policies. For example, copyright protects creative works, while open resources and adaptable licences facilitate the spread of knowledge and educational empowerment.

The partnership of IP rights and SDGs is also beneficial to the economy by powering economic growth and productive employment. This is because IP rights play a crucial role in enhancing competitiveness and job creation, thereby contributing to economic progress. Businesses can leverage their sustainability efforts to bolster their brand and guide consumers towards more sustainable choices.

Overall, IP rights are integral to sustainable development, encouraging innovators and businesses to create solutions for pressing environmental and societal issues. They foster and drive innovation, spread knowledge, and ensure fair access to vital resources, making them key to a sustainable and equitable future.

Pinsent Masons in Dublin is marking World IP Day with an event on Wednesday 24 April 2024. The event will spotlight brand leaders Chupi Sweetman, the founder of Chupi and a multi-award-winning jeweller, and Aine Kennedy, a beauty entrepreneur and founder of The Smooth Company. Both will discuss how they have grown and protected their brands and the role they see themselves playing in supporting a greener, more resilient future for the planet.

Co-written by Isabel Humburg of Pinsent Masons. 

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