U.S. Ambassador to Romania Kathleen Kavalec at the World Intellectual Property Day Event

U.S. Ambassador to Romania Kathleen Kavalec delivers remarks at the World Intellectual Property Day. Bucureşti, April 26, 2023 (Photo: Simona Stupar / Public Diplomacy Office)
U.S. Ambassador to Romania Kathleen Kavalec delivers remarks at the World Intellectual Property Day. Bucureşti, April 26, 2023 (Photo: Simona Stupar / Public Diplomacy Office)

(In Romanian) Bună dimineaţa tuturor. Mă bucur să vă văd şi să fiu astăzi alături de dumneavoastră. Dacă îmi permiteţi, voi vorbi în limba engleză.

First of all, good morning and congratulations on the amazing work Mr. Costreie, coordinator in Romania and that Romania has done in the field of intellectual property. And thank you Madam Vice President of the Court of Appeals for hosting us this morning in this beautiful building.

As we have already heard, the theme of World IP Day this year is “Women and IP,” and just as Ana Aslan is revered for the work here, in Romania, in the United States several female innovators have played a huge role in the development of our intellectual property framework. I think it is worth talking a little bit about that because I think it is important to remember what is behind the need for IP protection.

For example, we will soon celebrate the 171st anniversary of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is hard to understand how important this novel was in the United States. It amplified the national conversation regarding slavery in the years that preceded the American Civil War creating a real awareness and consciousness-raising moment. What’s more, copyright law in the United States was not ready for this kind of publishing phenomenon such as hers. This book was incredibly popular and sold more copies in the 1800s than the Bible and so it sparked a lot of imitations and illegal copies. The resulting lawsuits about this stealing of intellectual property, particularly with respect to intellectual property rights protections, helped shape our intellectual property law. Romanian-born author and Nobel Prize winner Herta Müller has seen her books widely translated around the world and I’m sure she very much appreciates how copyright law has evolved in both of those areas.

A little over a century after the success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the United States there was a genius chemist Stephanie Kwolek. In 1964, her scientific colleagues insisted one of her experiments had failed. But she disagreed, and with more testing she realized that the fibers she created during her experiment were incredibly strong. Today, we all know these fibers as Kevlar – later patented as an invention and trademarked as a brand name, which has been famously used in bulletproof vests that have saved the lives of thousands of police officers.

Harriet Beecher Stowe and Stephanie Kwolek were empowered not only because they had great ideas and incredible drive, but also because they understood their rights to intellectual property. Indeed, it is vital that we heed one of the most important lessons of history in this area of the law: the individual creator is the most powerful defender of his or her own intellectual property rights. We can pass all the IP legislation we want, and that is always important of course, but when we fail to educate the next great musician or the next great author as to the value of their own ideas, then we also fail to foster the creativity that enriches all of our lives and helps our nations prosper economically.

Romania has done incredible work in the past few years in this regard, particularly since the appointment of Mr. Costreie as the country’s Intellectual Property Coordinator. His appointment was a huge step forward for Romania, and we hope it is part of a longer journey forward.

There are so many different agencies that touch on intellectual property, including criminal justice, civil, and administrative bodies and I am glad to see many representatives from these agencies here this morning. This is the reason why it is essential to have in place an office that can see the bigger picture and identify the over-arching IP issues that need to be addressed, as well as the things that are working and should be replicated or enhanced.

With these things in mind, the United States hopes that the Office of the IP Coordinator becomes an institutionalized part of Romania’s government, so the country can continue to build on the magnificent groundwork that Mr. Costreie has laid. This is important, because both of our governments have a duty to support and encourage the groundbreaking work of our creative citizens.

On this World IP Day, we honor the brave and ingenious women who have done so much to improve our lives, and I will leave you with the story of another great American female inventor, Josephine Cochrane. Today, she is recognized as one of the founders of the global company KitchenAid, but in the late 1800s she was a widow facing crushing debt after the death of her husband. Women could not even vote in the United States at that time, and they lacked many other fundamental rights, but she persevered with her idea of a better mechanical dishwasher. She marketed the invention largely on her own at first, and at one point described making a pitch to a major hotel. She said:

You cannot imagine what it was like in those days…for a woman to cross a hotel lobby alone. I had never been anywhere without my husband or father – the lobby seemed a mile wide. I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn’t – and I got an $800 order as my reward.

I’m so glad that she kept going, and today let us dedicate ourselves to the spirit of creativity and determination that she represents. Thank you for having me here today, and I hope you have a wonderful conference.