Reach for Gold: Intellectual Property and Sports

Chargé d’Affaires Abigail Rupp at Reach for Gold: Intellectual Property and Sports
Chargé d’Affaires Abigail Rupp delivers remarks at Reach for Gold: Intellectual Property and Sports. Bucharest, May 8, 2019 (Lucian Crusoveanu / Public Diplomacy Office)

Chargé d’Affaires Abigail Rupp Remarks at
Reach for Gold: Intellectual Property and Sports

Mr. President, honored guests, Your Excellencies, it’s a pleasure to be here to talk about something that we all engage in or at least follow – that is sports, and their connection to international intellectual property rights.  From the U.S. perspective, intellectual property rights (IPR) are part of our National Security Strategy.  Protecting those rights supports and creates jobs, promotes economic prosperity, opens new markets, fosters investment in innovation, and creates conditions for future economic growth, both in the U.S. and around the world.

Every industry relies on these rights, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which make up the majority of new businesses both in Romania and in the U.S.  According to our Department of Commerce, intellectual property rights support hundreds of millions of jobs around the world, and those industries created $6 trillion of value-added to the U.S. GDP – that is just in the U.S.

When we talk about sports – and it is great to be here, hats off to the Federation to be doing that – sports are a multi-billion dollar global industry, but also support economic development, employment, trade, and enhance a country’s reputation.

The business connected to IP rights helps support the economic growth of sports, enable those organizations to finance the events that we like so much to entertain and enjoy and follow, and allows us to support youth development and community development at the very grassroots levels.

The sports businesses depend on the protection of their innovation, the protection of their patents and their logos to continue to invest in their businesses.

Those brands, those trademarks and those designs contribute to that identity of teams – we have the identity of the Romanian team in front of us, right here, and all their logos.  Those revenues offset important events, like the Olympic Games and the World Cup, and make sure that we value the integrity of those events.

Sports personalities also generate earnings from their sponsorship deals and from their rights that are protected to brands and logos. Think about things like Michael Jordan’s relationship with Nike, or think about global icons like Neymar or Simona Halep, who also have brands that are recognized around the world and endorsements that support that brand.

Sports drive innovation, and sports-related international patent applications are on the rise.  In fact, a top filer of patent applications relating to sports is Nike.  In every sport, there are innovators and creators who are looking for ways to push those boundaries, create new opportunities for fans, new possibilities for athletes, and use that technology to support other industries around the world.

Game-changing technologies, robotics, and artificial intelligence drive change not just in sports, but in many other possibilities.  For instance – another specific example from Romania – the activity-tracking technologies that were developed for athletes are now widely adopted.  How many people here are wearing a Fitbit or some sort of sports tracking?  And we also are happy to see that Fitbit now has an office here in Bucharest.  So, an example of how technology both evolves and creates partnerships across the world.

Intellectual property rights support the economic value and the innovation of sport, whereas counterfeiting and online piracy impede that growth and bar fair competition.

While Romania has the legal framework in place to combat counterfeiting, internet piracy, and other similar crimes, there can be more done on enforcement and public awareness and we from the embassy side are here to support, both in terms of training and awareness building and capacity building.  A year ago for instance we organized a conference in Bucharest – again in celebration of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Day on women and innovation and creativity.  An opportunity for law enforcement, public administration, private sector, and entrepreneurs to talk about the importance of intellectual property rights.

Then last September, we hosted a roundtable to talk about a National Romanian IPR Strategy.  We’re grateful to the office of Vice Prime Minister Ana Birchall that was active and continues to be active in promoting that, and senior advisor Simion Purza, thank you for coming.  We hope that continued cooperation on this initiative will also eventually lead to Romania’s eventual removal from the Special 301 List of the United States Trade Representative.

Every country, regardless of level of development, needs a strong, balanced system of intellectual property rights to support innovation, growth, and the sports we all love to watch.  Thank you all very much for coming and for the opportunity to join you.  I look forward to a productive discussion.