July 23, 2014

From Colds to Gold: The Innovative Future of Latin American Entrepreneurs

By Kelly Anderson

Over the last few weeks, the eyes of the world have been on Latin America. From the World Cup to the BRICS Summit, soccer enthusiasts, government leaders, and business representatives alike have been focused on Central and South America. And while the Argentinian fans mourned, the Germans celebrated, and the BRICS leaders concluded their meetings in Brazil, there was another event taking place that received far less media attention: the Business Futures of the Americas Conference in Panama.

Hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Panama, the conference brought together representatives of AmChams from across Latin America to discuss ways to further sustainable growth in the Americas through education, corporate social responsibility programs, and public/private partnerships. However, avenues for furthering innovation seemed to be top-of-mind for the long-term growth of both individual companies and the Americas alike.

Kaihan Krippendorff with the New York City-based firm Outthinker believes boogers may be the key to Latin American economic progress, citing the runaway success of DIY entrepreneurial mother of three, Julie Pickens. Working with a fellow mom, a chemist, and manufacturers, Pickens created and patented Boogie Wipes, saline nose tissues to help relieve the pain of kids’ sore, runny noses during cold season. The product was quite the hit among moms and kids alike, rapidly accruing $10 million in sales. Picken’s success was not only due to her “mompreneurial” spirit and innovative thinking, but also the IP protections that ensured her product could not be unfairly duplicated. Krippendorff noted that Latin American companies and economies should foster innovative talent like Pickens in order to sustainably grow their businesses and industries.

While IP and innovation are critical at the micro-level, the combined entrepreneurial prowess of a population can contribute to the macro-level growth of national economies as well. The Global Intellectual Property Center created a tool, the GIPC International IP Index, to help provide a roadmap for countries to grasp that prowess and achieve sustained economic development. The Index ranks the IP environments of 25 countries around the world – including five Latin American nations – and enumerates the ways in which strong IP protections further job creation, economic growth, and innovation. By highlighting both the strengths of nations’ IP protections and opportunities for countries to improve their IP system, the Index provides concrete policy steps in patents, copyrights, trademarks, and enforcement which countries can take to improve their IP environment and make them desirable destinations for innovation and foreign investment.

While the eyes of the world are on Latin America, we hope nations and companies alike will utilize tools like the Index to continue to strengthen their IP protections and further sustainable growth in Latin America, transforming into true knowledge-based economies.

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