How Innovation Can Save and Change Lives

Ask an Expert: How Innovation Can Save and Change Lives

This is the next installment of the IP Progress “Ask an Expert” series, highlighting the state of innovation and intellectual property in specific markets around the world through insights from our partner organizations.

 IP Progress recently heard from Lorenzo Montanari, Executive Director of global think tank Property Rights Alliance (PRA) that advocates for the protection of physical, legal and intellectual property (IP) rights around the world. Lorenzo is also Editor of the International Property Rights Index (IPRI), an international comparative study focused on intellectual and physical property rights metrics.

 As an expert at the crossroads of intellectual property rights and the global economy, Lorenzo described what innovation means to him and discussed headwinds and tailwinds to sustained global progress. Lorenzo described innovation as “finding a way to do something faster, better or with less energy.” He noted that, “not only is innovation the creation of an idea, it is also bringing it to market. This is the hard part – not only must you think of an idea, but you have to be able to act on it and make it a reality.”

 He also asserted that innovation is needed in every field, and that we “should be striving to make things work better or more effectively” across a “limitless” list of industries and areas to solve problems across the world. Recently in Ghana, for instance, a social entrepreneur created mPedigree, a mobile system in which pharmaceutical products are labeled with unique codes, allowing patients to text the code to a database that checks to ensure that the drug is real and not counterfeit. “It is these types of innovative ideas that save lives,” Lorenzo stated.

 On the other hand, “it is countries without IP protections that produce lower quality and sometimes dangerous counterfeits and discourage innovators from entering the marketplace,” Lorenzo stated, “Counterfeits, for instance, can be produced in one part of the world for very cheap, and sold in another part for a high price.”

 On protecting IP rights, Lorenzo affirmed, “IP protection is the most important thing to fostering innovation. If you look at our IPRI, countries that produce high-quality patents also have stronger IP enforcement provisions. This isn't a coincidence.” In other words, strong IP protection signals to rights holders and investors that new ideas, creations and solutions are safe in an economy.

“If we look at developing countries, we see that the number of patents filed and approved increases as the economy grows. This is a symbiotic relationship – these new inventions spur growth, and it is up to policymakers to protect them.”

Lorenzo called out the U.S. as a country that has succeeded in promoting and protecting IP rights for global progress. “The U.S. has done a great job of including IP provisions in its trade deals. Recently, in the [United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement], the U.S. increased protection for biologics in Mexico and Canada to 10 years, when previously in Canada it was 8 years and 5 years in Mexico,” he stated.

In summary, Lorenzo noted, “A main concern for innovators around the world is the protection of their ideas. This is where IP rights come into play. We know that strong IP rights spur innovation, and strong IP rights lead to stronger development.”

Lorenzo Montanari is Executive Director of Property Rights Alliance, an advocacy policy group in charge of publishing the International Property Rights Index. He analyzes the crossroads on how rules of law, intellectual property rights and international relations impact the global economy.