Lack of IPR protection poses barriers for companies to sell and compete globally: Victoria A. Espinel

Protection and enforcement of intellectual property specifically for software is supremely important.

Lack of IPR protection poses barriers for companies to sell and compete globally: Victoria A. Espinel
Protection and enforcement of intellectual property specifically for software is supremely important.

“Protection and enforcement of intellectual property specifically for software is supremely important. Lack of effective IPR protection poses significant barriers to the ability of companies to sell and compete in the international markets. Particularly for starts ups, intellectual property protection helps drive venture capital funding,” says Victoria A. Espinel, President and CEO, BSA| The Software Alliance, in an exclusive interaction with Ankush Kumar. Espinel is currently responsible for overseeing BSA programs and initiatives in 60 countries through its 10 offices around the world. BSA is a leading trade body representing the commercial software industry to promote trade, growth of the legal software market, technology innovation and cyber security. Prior to heading BSA, Espinel was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve as the first US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

Edited Excerpts:

What is your view of the software market in India?

The Indian software market has shown the highest growth rate among the BRIC countries in 2014. India registered a growth rate of 8.3 percent in terms of total revenues, according to Gartner. The software market will be worth $165 billion by the end of next year. Software export revenues for 2016 is also projected to grow by 12 to 14 percent and reach $110-112 billion. The government is placing a lot of emphasis on IT as a result of Digital India, which includes components like the creation of Smart Cities, e-governance, e-literacy, e-commerce, strengthening and expansion of digital infrastructure, and transforming India into an electronic system, design and manufacturing hub. All of this makes India an exciting software market that offers much promise.

Do you think that the Digital India initiative will lead to transformation of India’s digital economy?

Although only one-fourth of the Indian population has access to the internet, the implementation of policy initiatives such as Digital India signals a rapid change in the internet landscape. The rise of digital products and services will transform the face of India’s digital economy. Key to this growth will be India’s policies focusing on transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy, which is the main goal of the Digital India program.

What kind of policies should the Government of India develop to improve the prospects of the software industry in the country?

Firstly, we have to ensure that there is level playing field for all competitors so that businesses and consumers everywhere have access to the best products and services that the world has to offer. The governments should lead by example. They should be fully transparent in their procurement practices and make decisions based on whether a product or service best meets the needs at hand and provides good value for money. Secondly, we must modernise policies to reflect the realities of digital commerce as it is being conducted today. This requires keeping borders open to the free flow of data, and preventing mandates on where IT infrastructure, such as servers or other hardware must be located. Thirdly, we must promote continued progress of technology innovation so that we can capitalise on the opportunities of both today and tomorrow. For this, countries must ensure robust and effective intellectual property protections and encourage the use of voluntary, market-led technology standards. Fourthly, we must implement robust cyber security policies to ensure the promise of today’s interconnected world is not jeopardised by emerging cyber threats. Cyber security policies and implementation frameworks must be stable and clear, but they also must be risk-based and flexible to adjust to evolving threats.

Why is intellectual property important for software companies, particularly the startups? What could be the risks of using unlicensed software for companies in India?

Protection and enforcement of intellectual property specifically for software is supremely important. Lack of effective IPR protection poses significant barriers to the ability of companies to sell and compete in international markets. Particularly for start-ups, intellectual property protection helps drive venture capital funding. When businesses and other organisations use unlicensed software, they expose themselves to a variety of potential security risks that can harm not only their own business interests, but the interests of their customers as well. Widespread use of unlicensed software hampers economic growth, depriving innovative software developers of revenue and government treasuries of precious tax revenue.

Additionally, information services companies also suffer from theft of valuable trade secrets, such as confidential information on business processes, designs or other critical data that gives companies and their products a distinct competitive advantage. In India, trade secrets are not recognised as a form of intellectual property. India would benefit from enacting a clear and enforceable Trade Secrets Law, to clarify the rights of trade secrets owners and to send a clear signal that those who would misappropriate others’ valuable commercial information will be punished under the law.

What kind of initiatives is BSA planning in India?

BSA works closely with governments across the world to foster education and policy initiatives that facilitate continued technology innovation and creativity. India is well on its way to achieving its aspiration of harnessing technology innovation to become one of the world’s leading knowledge economies. The Government of India has shown great eagerness to collaborate with industry to achieve its goals. And as digital products and services become an increasingly important part of the global trade, it is critical that digital trade rules keep pace to ensure broad development, deployment, and utilisation of cutting-edge technology solutions. BSA and its members will continue to work closely with the Government of India to achieve the goals set forth in the Digital India program. We would welcome the opportunity to further engage with the government, prior to implementing the procurement policy for software and to offer our experiences as a resource for the government as appropriate.

What is your view on Make in India? How far it has helped the country in regaining the faith of the global investors?

The ‘Make in India’ initiative aims to transform India into a world-class manufacturing hub. Over the past two decades India has emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world and it is also the third-largest technical and scientific manpower pool in the world, which makes it all the more attractive as an investment destination. The government has announced that it will promote IT manufacturing and exports by setting up Special Economic Zones and by allowing 100 percent foreign direct investment through the automatic route (which does not require prior approval either of the Government or the Reserve Bank of India.) We support efforts to achieve enhanced investment through accelerating economic transformation, eliminating unnecessary laws and regulations, streamlining bureaucratic processes and establishing pro-innovation, pro-innovating policies. Such efforts will be fundamentally important for implementing this program and for technology and software to play a significant role as India boosts its manufacturing prowess. Establishing an even more effective IP regime will improve confidence in India’s local innovation potential. This will also spur interest from foreign investors in India as a worthy market.

You have been handling crucial roles in many global organisations. What qualities do you think is required to become a dynamic leader?

In order to be a dynamic leader, you have to believe you will succeed. Your plans and strategy may change along the way, but ultimately, you know that you will meet your goal. Great leaders believe in themselves and their teams, because they hire people who are smarter than they are and know more than they do. A dynamic leader is ambitious yet kind. It is important to be able to push beyond your comfort zone. After all, the only way to grow and learn is to challenge yourself to try new things. Plan for everything but understand that most things will not go according to plan. And always look ahead!

How much do you think your past experience has helped you in handling your current roles and responsibilities?

My past experiences have helped me immensely. As a trade negotiator for the United States government, I learned a great deal about the governments and priorities of countries around the world. I understand the steps they are taking to move further into the knowledge economy and how the U.S. can support them. That information is important in my role at BSA, where we work with governments all over the world to advocate for the global software industry. As part of my job at White House, I worked with 100,000 employees at 17 different federal agencies. That experience taught me how to bring large groups of people together to work on a common mission together.

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