To attract foreign investment and reward local innovation and creativity, countries must be able to assure investors that their intellectual property will be protected. Although the Egyptian government has laws and institutions to enforce intellectual property rights, infringement remains a problem, particularly for copyright-protected works such as videotapes, audiotapes, and computer software.
According to Judy Goans of Nathan Associates, “Egypt, like the United States, has an active film and music industry, and both countries suffer economic losses from copyright piracy. There is strong interest [in Egypt] in developing more effective protection for intellectual property rights, which affect a country’s economic development and ability to attract foreign investment as well as the health and safety of consumers.”
Modernizing the System and Elevating Standards
In leading USAID’s Strengthening Intellectual Property Rights (SIPRE) program, Nathan Associates (1) helped develop, manage, and automate industrial property offices (IPOs); (2) trained IPO staff and others responsible for enforcing the intellectual property system; and (3) helped elevate protection to international standards by drafting laws and guidelines for the examination of industrial property and enforcement of property rights.
Training in Granting and Enforcing Rights
In late 1998, Egyptian officials visited the United States. General Ishak Mahmoud El Ashmawy, special consultant to the Ministry of Trade and Supply for Improving Intellectual Property Rights, hailed the visit for advancing the officials’ understanding of enforcement methods and problems:
“Seeing the latest technology, observing court cases, and meeting our counterparts in the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office, the Customs Service, and the Justice Department showed us how enforcement works in the United States and gave us many ideas and good contacts for future cooperation. International cooperation will be increasingly important because, as we have also learned during this trip, the threat to IPR from organized piracy is increasingly huge and global.”
Earlier, employees from Egypt’s Trademark Office attended a training program in the United States developed by Nathan Associates to improve their skills in trademark examination. At the same time, patent examiners in Cairo received training in examining and processing patent applications for pharmaceutical products.
Meeting WTO Requirements
??The program is also helping Egypt conform to the requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Because the TRIPS Agreement is widely viewed as a catalyst for attracting trade and foreign investment, many developing countries worked diligently to bring their copyright, patent, trademark, and other intellectual property laws in line with the agreement by January 2000.
Building Public Support
?Because the protection of intellectual property rights depends ultimately on public support, we also helped Egypt’s leaders to explain how stronger protection will increase investment and create jobs. We developed materials to solidify public appreciation for Egypt’s capacity and status as a creator of intellectual property in fields ranging from the arts to agriculture. Egypt is increasingly well-prepared to lead the region in documenting and protecting intellectual property and in creating an environment that fosters and rewards innovation and creativity.
Nathan continued its IP work under the TIPRE project.