Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Small and Medium Enterprise Ministerial Meeting
"Fostering the Innovative SMEs"
Friday, August 3, 2012
St. Petersburg, Russia
As prepared for delivery
Allow me to begin by reiterating what an honor it is to be here with so many friends and APEC partners.
And it’s a pleasure to continue this conversation about small- and medium-enterprises with you, especially as it relates to fostering innovation.
As I said earlier, throughout the Asia-Pacific region, there are recently established SMEs operating today that will become the world’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
In so many ways, they’ll be the authors of the next chapter of the global economic story.
They are a constant source of new and bold ideas.
And we’ve got to work together to ensure that these ideas can flourish.
A key to this work is the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
I have the privilege of working at the U.S. Department of Commerce, which houses the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
And above one of the entrances to our building is a quote from former President — Abraham Lincoln.
He said that the U.S. “patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”
And his point is clear.
If entrepreneurs are going to reach their full potential, they need to know that their ideas and creative products will be protected, and not stolen.
Only then can they:
- fully reap the profits from their creations;
- compete with larger companies;
- and grow their businesses.
Yet SMEs face significant challenges in acquiring, maintaining and enforcing IPR worldwide.
It can be difficult because they often lack the experience or resources of large companies.
An inexperienced SME may enter markets without taking adequate precautions against IP theft.
Or they might not have the capital, because securing patent rights in foreign markets can be prohibitively costly for innovative start-ups.
That’s why in the United States, it has long been recognized that small businesses seeking patent protection should not bear the same economic burdens as well-established firms and corporations.
So small businesses applying for patents can qualify for a 50% fee discount.
And significantly, the fee discounts offered by our patent and trademark office apply to both U.S. applicants and foreign applicants.
By comparison, patent offices around the world tend to charge much higher fees.
And even when SMEs are able to secure protections for their ideas, they often lack the resources to enforce these rights in local courts across the region.
So the bad news is that there are clearly a lot of challenges facing SMEs.
The good news is that governments can take steps to help them address these challenges.
APEC economies must work together to raise awareness about intellectual property rights, their importance to developing a sustainable business model, and the resources available to help companies struggling to fight infringement.
In addition to raising awareness, APEC economies should build on the commitments made last year:
- to refrain from providing preferences to domestic intellectual property;
- to ensure that the terms and conditions of technology transfer are left to agreement among individual enterprises;
- and to improve access to basic information on how to register intellectual property.
Working together to ensure that these APEC commitments are implemented will go a long way in helping SMEs in this important area.
The United States is firmly committed to this effort in a variety of ways.
One initiative I want to highlight is our extensive library of tools and resources — all available free of charge on our one-stop online portal for IPR information — www.STOPfakes.gov.
There, SMEs can conduct an IP audit and learn about the basics of IPR protection and enforcement in the U.S. and abroad.
They can research the particular intellectual property regimes in a number of economies using “IPR Toolkits.”
SMEs looking for specific advice can also seek one hour of free legal counsel from a volunteer attorney as part of our International IPR Advisory Program.
To highlight these tools, the Commerce Department — and its partners — launched a series of IPR outreach programs, called “STOPfakes.gov Road Shows.”
We want SMEs to be rewarded for their ingenuity and hard work.
This will fuel innovation and growth, goals that I know all of you share.
That’s why the U.S. is eager to continue to work with our APEC partners to help SMEs succeed by protecting valuable IP assets.
Together, we can ensure entrepreneurs have a fair chance to succeed.
Together, we can fight for fairness in the global marketplace.
And together, we can expand opportunity and advance prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific region.Thank you.
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