Intellectual Property and the Sustainable Development Goals 

Author: AmCham IPR Task Force

*The article in Macedonian language, published by Kapital can be found at the bottom of this page.

The world is driven forward by creative ideas that offer solutions to the various problems we face as individuals, groups, or as a society. From simple stone tools, through the steam engine, to complex models of the Internet of Things, innovations push the boundaries of what was previously considered reality and, in that manner, ease our lives and help us improve the world we live in. 

However, for innovations and other creations of the human mind —such as industrial designs, trademarks, computer programs, novels, films, songs, etc.— to occur, the creativity and skills of the innovator or author are not the only necessary conditions that need to be met. On the contrary, it is essential to have an appropriate mechanism that encourages the creative process and supports the risk associated with exploring new, unfamiliar areas. 

Such mechanism is the system of Intellectual Property. Its role is to ensure a balance between the rights of the innovator and the public interest. On one hand, it guarantees to the innovators that their contribution to a specific invention will be recognized and that they will receive an appropriate material benefit for the results of their work. On the other hand, it also enables access to the benefits of inventions for the wider community under reasonable conditions. 

With a similar goal as innovations, to address the challenges that society faces, in 2015, the member states of the United Nations, including the Republic of North Macedonia, adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030. The SDGs represent a set of 17 interrelated and interdependent goals aimed at improving people’s living standards and eliminating poverty, preserving planet Earth and its biodiversity, and fostering a sustainable economy etc. (Comprehensive list of the 17 SDGs in provided in Annex 1) 

Intellectual property rights can play a key role in the process of achieving all the SDGs, and we hereby share several examples of such cases. 

Intellectual property can be directly linked to the SDGs related to decent work and sustainable economic growth or to inclusive and sustainable industry, innovation, and resilient infrastructure (SDG 8 and SDG 9, respectively). The protection of inventions, trademarks, and industrial designs encourages individuals and companies to create and invest, which, among other things, leads to the creation of new jobs and improved living standards. This means that the benefits of creative activities will be felt by the wider community. 

Furthermore, innovations in medicine, the development of medical technology, as well as the discovery of new drugs and medical devices, directly contribute to the improvement of global health and well-being (SDG 3). Patents, as part of intellectual property rights, provide protection for the time, effort, and resources invested in developing new therapies and drugs and allow right holders to compensate their investment. In this manner, intellectual property rights holders are motivated to initiate new cycles of research and development, leading to the treatment of new medical conditions. 

The next example is related to inventions in the field of resource management. Such innovations have the potential to revolutionize the achievement of goals related to ensuring access to clean water and sanitation for all, sustainable water and sanitation management, affordable, sustainable, modern, and reliable electricity supply, sustainable consumption, and production, climate action, protection of water, sustainable land use, and protection of terrestrial biodiversity (SDGs 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, and 15 respectively). These innovations directly contribute to the preservation of the environment, which also leads to the protection of health, as well as to the long-term availability of resources for future uses and their more even distribution, which reduces the chances of potential disturbances and promotes social cohesion (SDG 3 and SDG 16). 

The examples given are only illustrative, and the possibilities offered by creativity to create better conditions for everyone are unlimited! 

Therefore, innovations are a key driver of social progress, and their adequate protection is a must. At this moment, it is essential to continue advancing the legal and institutional framework of intellectual property in order to foster the creative potential needed to achieve the SDGs and ensure a more humane and sustainable world. 

Annex 1: Sustainable Development Goals 

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. 

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security, improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. 

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. 

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. 

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. 

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. 

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. 

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. 

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries. 

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. 

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. 

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. 

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development. 

Goal 15: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. 

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. 

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. 

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