April 27, 2015
It is a pleasure to be here today in support of World Intellectual Property Day. Protecting intellectual property rights (IPR) is, at its heart, about protecting people. It allows musicians, writers, and inventors to recoup their costs and make a living. It fosters innovation, industrial development, and creativity and provides a legal foundation for protecting an individual’s rights to his or her work. It is no exaggeration to say that the progress and well-being of humanity rests on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture.
What exactly does “intellectual property” mean? Intellectual property embodies a unique work reflecting someone’s creativity that includes patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Well-known examples of U.S. intellectual property in the field of music are the works of such famous singers as Madonna, Justin Timberlake, or one of my personal favorites, the Beastie Boys. It is important to emphasize that individuals in every country develop intellectual property and should benefit from its protection. Sinn Sisamouth, the Elvis of Cambodia, for example, was a legendary Cambodian singer in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Unfortunately, without the rights to his songs, his family was unable to benefit from his unique and talented voice. Thankfully, last year Minister of Commerce Sun Chanthol stepped in and granted rights to 73 of Sinn Sisamouth’s songs to his family.
Musicians devote an enormous amount of time and resources to their work. In order for them to continue their work, they must be able to receive appropriate compensation. In President Abraham Lincoln’s words, the intellectual property rights system adds “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” That protection, and the incentive it creates for people to devote their time and energy to innovation, is so important to the United States that intellectual property protection is included in the U.S. Constitution.
The theme of this year’s World Intellectual Property Day — “Get up, stand up. For music” — recognizes the unique role of music and the music industry in bettering our world and contributing to our economy and culture. Whether it is hip-hop or Khmer ballads, new age or heavy metal, whether it is played with a Gibson electric guitar or a roneat ek used in traditional Khmer music, music in all of its forms — instrumental or vocal –needs to be protected as the amazing human creations they are.
We commend the Cambodian government for having passed or introduced a number of laws and regulations to protect intellectual property. The Cambodian government recently submitted documents to accede to the Madrid Protocol for International Registration of Marks at the World Intellectual Property Organization. With this accession, Cambodian brand owners will have the ability to protect their products through one simple application covering more than 110 countries, and foreign companies will have the same protections enjoyed in other countries.
In closing, it is both fitting and proper that we pay tribute to the next generation of musicians and creators on World Intellectual Property Day. Protecting intellectual property is not only about safeguarding the present, it is also about laying a solid foundation for tomorrow’s artists. While it is not always an easy thing to do, it is the right thing to do. So the U.S. will continue to partner with Cambodia and ASEAN whether it’s through the ASEAN Cooperative Plan on IPR or capacity building workshops or awareness campaigns. Thank you.