Founded in 1897, The International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) is an association that works to protect the intellectual property of individuals and companies. For the first time since 1969 – when it was held in Venice –, the association’s annual world conference will once again be held in Italy, in a return celebrated with a gala dinner hosted by Pirelli at the Hangar Bicocca in Milan.
We spoke to Renata Righetti Pelosi, President of AIPPI Italy, and Felipe Claro, President of the AIPPI Worldwide, about the importance of patents, copyrights and trademarks, and the choice of Milan.
What are your positions within the AIPPI? What is the mission of the AIPPI?
RIGHETTI PELOSI: I have been president of AIPPI Italy for three years. As an international association with branches in about 100 countries, the mission of the AIPPI dates back to the late nineteenth century and aims to align the laws on industrial property. Amongst our objectives, we offer solutions to new problems that arise as a result of technological development, which has created a constant need to update and elaborate on the importance of intellectual property and the protection of trademarks, patents and the concept of copyright.
CLARO: I am president of the Association and of the Bureau, where I direct all Bureau meetings and, together with the Executive Committee, guide the association on the decisions to be taken in line with the objectives of the AIPPI.
How does the AIPPI help individuals and companies to defend their intellectual property?
CLARO: Founded in 1897, the AIPPI is a non-political, non-profit organization based in Switzerland. Currently the association has more than 9,000 members representing over one hundred countries and its main objective is to protect intellectual property at both national and international levels. In order to this, the association works to develop, improve and protect regional and international treaties, agreements and national laws on intellectual property.
RIGHETTI PELOSI: AIPPI is a forum, we discuss problems and suggest solutions. Of course, this help is mediated as it is a work of study, creative thinking and imagination in finding solutions to problems. Thus, the AIPPI does not offer direct aid but is intended to protect and defend intellectual property.
Why is it important that companies make use of trademarks, patents, know-how and copyright?
RIGHETTI PELOSI: Because they make a real difference – it is those rights that enable a company to lay claim to something unique in terms of image, style and taste, to define its own market, to be recognized for and to protect their creativity and ensure – even if only for a limited period of time –, technological exclusivity.
CLARO: Because they are the most efficient way to encourage and protect creativity, and you need them in order to survive in the creative sphere. At the same time, however, users should be aware of what they can do with other people's creations. Finding the right balance between those who own intellectual property and the public is necessary so that the former are respected around the world. Indeed, from this point of view, the project "Building Respect for Intellectual Property" WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) represents an important example that should be passed on and supported.
What is the situation like in Italy? What form of incentive could motivate individuals and companies to invest more in trademarks, patents, know-how and copyright?
RIGHETTI PELOSI: In terms of patents, there is not enough awareness, especially if we compare the Italian situation to that of Germany and other European countries, to say nothing of China and Russia. It could be said that in Italy, the numbers define a “niche” market, although compared to some years ago the situation has improved, especially in the courts, where case management is now much more efficient. Nevertheless, our numbers still remain quite low.
As far as incentives are concerned, there is certainly some support provided to those who have invested in intellectual property, for example: the partial reimbursement of expenses, subsidies, and tax breaks, not only on the patent but also on other rights.
How has the sector changed with the invention of the digital world?
CLARO: The very substance of intellectual property is changing. Our world is evolving from a multimedia environment to a "multimedia existence", where humans digitize their experiences, re-materializing them as they wish. At the same time, there is also a growing aversion in relation to private property, especially amongst younger people, who want immediate access to everything free of charge. At this point, popular online games can be used to comunicate the importance of this issue in a fun and friendly way.
RIGHETTI PELOSI: A number of very different situations have emerged: on one hand, there has been an exponential increase in the number of patents and other new forms of protection (designs and trademarks) involving digital objects. For example, there are millions of patents registered in relation to the smartphone industry. In fact, today all sorts of things are protected, to the point that FRAND standards are being developed to ensure that essential patents for the development of technologies are used fairly, even by non-owners, so as to avoid stunting the growth of technological development.
Are security tools aimed at the protection of intellectual property keeping up with the needs of global competition?
RIGHETTI PELOSI: In principle, there is a certain degree of basic uniformity with no specific exceptions. Even China is aligned for the most part and there are no longer countries classified as total enemies.
Obviously there is still much work to be done to ensure that the standards are as uniform as possible, but this is a long process that dates back to the Paris Convention of 1883 and has continued ever since: even the US has adapted to certain aspects. For example, the duration of rights is almost the same in 99% of all countries. However, it remains much to be done in sectors such as biotechnology and software and other areas under development.
In a globalized world, is European copyright protected from external protagonists? If not, how can it be improved?
RIGHETTI PELOSI: At a European level, there is much discussion on this topic. Only in recent days, a legislative draft aimed at aligning copyright laws, while optimizing and extending them to the web, has been released. Thus, it's all in the making, and we will see the developments as they arise.
For the first time since 1969, the AIPPI is back in Italy: What does the conference mean for Milan? And why was Milan chosen as the location?
RIGHETTI PELOSI: The AIPPI has returned to Italy because it was strongly supported by the national group, which is among the oldest and most numerous of AIPPI. With regards to the choice of Milan, the city is the capital of Italian intellectual property - the number of patents and trademarks in Milan and in Lombardy is still by far the highest in the country. Milanese companies deposit the greatest number of patents and the city hosts a great number of legal experts, lawyers and consultants, as well as the record of cases handled by the City Court.
The choice of the 2016 edition, on which we started working nine years ago, was not random. We knew that post-Expo, Milan would be a better city, a city that today we are proud to show to the world.
CLARO: As the host of the 2015 edition of the Expo, Milan is the third most important European city in terms of its economic power and is also the heart of Italian industry, business, trade, finance and fashion. Inheriting the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, Milan perfectly represents the world of intellectual property. Many years ago, the AIPPI decided to focus on Milan and we are convinced it was the right decision. It is the right time to come to Italy and be hosted by the Italian Group of AIPPI, which is strong and active, and we expect more than 2,000 visitors, which would be a great result.