Global progress is driven by educational attainment, scientific discovery and technological invention. But the engine of this progress – human innovation – is no accident; our ability to innovate has been nurtured by a complex ecosystem that supports property rights, an inherent human liberty. But not all countries are the same, and some foster a stronger environment for property rights than others.
The Property Rights Alliance recently released the 2018 International Property Rights Index (IPRI), a barometer of the state of property rights protections in 125 countries. The results are in: Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Chile, fall short on promoting and protecting intellectual property rights. As these countries’ ecosystems of liberty, productivity, and property falter, innovative scientific and technological inventions will continue to suffer. To reverse that trend, governments in the LAC region and beyond must align with best practices to help foster global progress.
According to the IPRI rankings, a country’s score consists of three components:
- Legal and Political Environment, which measures the strength of a country’s institutions and respect for the “rules” and rights of its citizens across four factors: judicial independence, rule of law, control of corruption, and political stability.
- Physical Property Rights, which evaluates a country’s effectiveness to protect private property rights across three elements: protection of physical property rights, registering property, and ease of access to loans.
- Intellectual Property Rights, which measures a country’s protection of intellectual property across two domains: intellectual property rights and copyright piracy.
Across the board, Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries fell substantially below the average IPRI score, while developed economies in North America and Western Europe scored highest. El Salvador, Argentina and Peru fell in the bottom half of the IPRI’s rankings. Colombia, Brazil and Chile scored higher for the LAC region, but still failed to score in the top 20 percent of all countries examined.
The results are in: Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Chile, fall short on promoting and protecting intellectual property rights.
Most concerning from the IPRI’s results is the glaring gap that often exists between the stated commitment of certain LAC countries and the actual actions they take to promote and protect property rights. The IPRI scores from this region make clear that there’s much to be desired from some LAC governments; a commitment alone does not protect citizens’ rights.
Consider the example of Colombia. Despite the fact that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has agreed to Colombia’s request for accession in the OECD, the government has failed to live up to the standards set by its peers within this group. Colombia scores low on the IPRI, in part, because they fail to control counterfeit and pirated goods from being distributed, have threatened to abuse compulsory licenses on innovative medicines, and provide no mechanism for biopharmaceutical inventors to resolve patent infringement disputes before copycat products are already launched.
The IPRI ranked Chile highest among Latin American countries at 29. However, if Chile wants to maintain this score, or break into the top 20 percent of countries on future IPRI rankings, the Chilean government will need to take real actions to promote and protect property rights.
Where to start? Chilean lawmakers should stop pursuing anti-innovation tactics like compulsory licenses. They should pass legislation to criminalize satellite and cable signal theft and protect the property rights of innovators, who could contribute to the next life-changing innovation.