IP Awareness: A Giant Step Towards a Thousand Miles

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A cross-section of participants attending one of LIPO several IP awareness programs.

-LIPO makes move to create an enabling environment for IP development across the country

Over the last decade, the state of Intellectual Property (IP) in Liberia has been very discouraging, resulting into a booming illegal trade of pirated works, done in plain sight and without any action being taken against those involved in pirating the creations of others to make money.

This situation has been the result of a lack of intense public awareness by the Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO), thereby leaving the majority of the country’s estimated population of 4.5 million people without any knowledge about IP laws.

The absence of an IP knowledge among a large segment of the country’s population means an average man on the street, who may or may not be ignorant of IP laws, is either in the regular habit of purchasing pirated work or committing some form of piracy, mostly unintentionally. This makes the sale of pirated works worth millions of dollars.

This is evident of the fact that professors of universities and colleges, as well as high school teachers, copy an entire book for teaching purposes, in the name of free use, which should not have been the case. Also, many politicians who are policymakers are not knowledgeable about IP and do not give the needed support, whether morally or financially, to help LIPO perform its core functions properly.

However, things appear to be changing as LIPO has shifted to creating massive awareness in its drive toward prominence. LIPO’s nationwide IP awareness, which started about two months ago, has so far reached a little over 50,000 persons. These include police and customs officers, rights holders, professors, teachers, and journalists, out of an entire campaign targeting about 500,000 people.

By this action, LIPO has realized that the lack of public awareness has created a challenge for the enforcement of existing IP Laws against infringement, piracy, etc. This awareness drive is the best way to have a societal change because respecting the principles, policies, and laws of IP means changing our cultural behavior of not valuing IP as a people.

“The huge potential in our creative sector can only be harnessed by respecting the rules and laws of Intellectual Property which, can leverage us up from poverty to prosperity.  This can only be done by creating an enabling environment through sustained public awareness we can shift to a paradigm of respect and usage of Intellectual Property articles, Prince Decker, Officer-in-Charge at LIPO, said during the launch of their nationwide outreach campaign in February of 2018.

LIPO’s realization of the importance of IP awareness shows the Office’s seriousness and willingness to help create a society that endeavors to recognize people’s dreams through an understanding and respect for IP, which will not only bring about economic growth but one-day transition Liberia to a knowledge-based economy.

Nevertheless, it is better late than never, and education plays a vitally important role in changing people’s behavior and perception. By communicating the vital importance of IP, which they are doing, LIPO is sure to bring about behavioral change. Also, the significance of this IP awareness campaign is that it has managed to get both current and future IP creators involved, to know how to protect their creative outputs and innovation.

And because of their involvement, the Office is, for the first time, seeing an increase in IP application registration among Liberian IP creators as well as developing their anti-piracy software to protect their creation—something that was not done before.

Furthermore, since the coming into force of the IP awareness campaign, IP creators are becoming their own police, helping LIPO in the fight against piracy, which will gradually reduce the high rate of piracy in the country, because they now have the knowledge on what to do to reap monetary benefits from the people that are stealing their creativity. This could not have been possible in the absence of an awareness. This is because to build a society that will be knowledgeable about IP, the right holders have to be equipped with the IP knowledge needed to succeed in their field and avoid people exploiting them.

Looking at the short-term impact of this campaign, and its future directions, it will definitely help to minimize piracy levels and provide an environment that supports IP while seeking help when it comes to enforcing the law. This is what makes LIPO’s initiative a giant step to a thousand miles.

IP supports nearly every aspect of our economy and creates a framework that allows new industries and innovations to flourish, to contribute to solving the problems which threaten the whole of society. So this is why it is important that LIPO work harder to make Liberia one of the countries in the world that value IP.

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