Teaching Intellectual Property

The development of video games has become an increasingly attractive market for young entrepreneurs, especially due to the growing penetration of smartphone applications around the world. In fact, in Chile there are over 20 companies dedicated to producing video games. But the growth of this industry in Chile, like others based on innovation, depends on better protection for intellectual property.

Educating Chileans about the importance of intellectual property starts at school. For this reason, the US Embassy, in partnership with the Chilean affiliate of the US-based licensing and technology transfer non-profit Licensing Executives Society (LES), recently sponsored video game workshops for students between the ages of 12 and 14.

The workshops, held between March 29 and April 3, were led by two young Americans: Katya Hott, a video game designer and educational content developer at E-Line Media, and Edward Yoo, a video game producer at Large Animal Games. During their week in Chile, they taught almost 200 students at schools in Punta Arenas, Peñalolén, and Valparaíso. 

The students created their own video games and were then asked to “sell” them in a market without piracy and then repeat the exercise in a market with piracy. Asked to comment on the experience, one student said: “When we were playing without pirates it was fun, but when the pirates appeared we felt very bad because they were selling what I did without my permission”. Through these exercises, the students were able to understand the concept of intellectual property, as well as the negative economic and social effects that piracy can have on a country’s development.

The results of the workshops were presented at AmCham on April 4. US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, and LES Chile President Gonzalo Sánchez were amongst those in attendance. AmCham President Javier Irarrázaval highlighted that promoting intellectual property protection is one of AmChams key concerns and that the Chamber continues to support initiatives in this area. In their presentation, Hott and Yoo emphasized the effectiveness of role-playing in the students’ understanding of concepts related to intellectual property.

Two main conclusions could be drawn from this initiative. First, and perhaps the most obvious, is that piracy and poor protection of intellectual property create a disincentive for creativity and innovation. Second, that education and public awareness of respect for creator rights are essential.

Ambassador Wolff took the opportunity to explain that among the many reasons why the United States supports protection for intellectual property is its impact on innovation and development, as well as the jobs it creates.

“If others can take an idea as their own after it has been tried by someone else, they undermine the creator’s ability to recover the cost of his investment. This problem is addressed by respecting and applying intellectual property rights, which also helps to ensure that the private sector has the incentive to invest in innovation,” said the Ambassador.

In Chile there are two intellectual property laws: the Copyright Law, which protects literature, arts and science, and the Industrial Property Law, which protects patents, trademarks and industrial designs, among others. Despite the government’s recent efforts to strengthen protection for industrial property, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that Chile remains on its 2012 Priority Watch List of countries that have failed to adequately protect the intellectual property of US companies.

The main reason Chile appears on the list for a sixth consecutive year is that, from the United States’ point of view, it has not fulfilled its intellectual property-related commitments in the Free Trade Agreement signed between both countries in 2003. In particular, the United States urges Chile to improve protection for pharmaceutical patents and to amend its Internet service provider liability regime to permit effective action against piracy.

As the students in Hott and Yoo’s workshops learned, the world grows based on ideas and innovation, but when these ideas are not protected, creators do not receive what they need to keep producing and the incentive to innovate is reduced.

Innovation is an important source of competitiveness and economic growth. But in countries with weak intellectual property laws, creators are faced with three choices: develop their ideas but end up bankrupt; never develop new ideas in the first place; or leave and go to other countries with stronger laws.

If Chile is to achieve its goal of becoming a developed country by the end of this decade, it must improve its laws in order to establish an intellectual property framework that fosters a more competitive and modern country.

María Pía Aqueveque is Director of Research & Special Projects at AmCham