In seven years writing this blog, I have not spoken about social or political issues. Now I speak. President Biden is right. “We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out.”
There is no place for hate against Asian-Americans. There is no place for hate against people because of the color of their skin. There is no place for hate against people because of their religion, or because of their non-belief. There is no place for hate against people because of the country they came from or the country their ancestors came from.
My daily world is the world of intellectual property. One of the oldest international agreements relating to intellectual property is the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, a treaty that was adopted exactly 138 years ago on March 20, 1883. One of the purposes of the Paris Convention was to bring an end to laws and policies by which some nations had treated people from other nations poorly in the particular areas of obtaining patent protection, trademark protection, and design protection.
The treaty is composed of thirty numbered Articles, the first of which names and defines the treaty. Most of the numbered articles are rather dry legal language spelling out procedures for (for example) filing a first patent application in a first country, and a second patent application in a second country, and linking the two patent applications together in a particular way. The dry Articles start at Article 3 and continue to Article 30.
Which brings us to Article 2 of this treaty that was adopted exactly 138 years ago. The drafters of this treaty, after doing the throat-clearing of Article 1, and before proceeding with the dry legalize of Articles 3 through 30, wrote Article 2:
Nationals of any country of the Union shall, as regards the protection of industrial property, enjoy in all the other countries of the Union the advantages that their respective laws now grant, or may hereafter grant, to nationals; all without prejudice to the rights specially provided for by this Convention. Consequently, they shall have the same protection as the latter, and the same legal remedy against any infringement of their rights, provided that the conditions and formalities imposed upon nationals are complied with.
Translated into plain language, this says:
[So far as applying for patents and registering trademarks and protecting designs is concerned,] we promise to treat people from other countries as well as we would treat people from our own country.
Among the first countries to join this treaty were Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Each of these countries promised to treat nationals of other countries as well as they would treat their own nationals (in the specific area of patents, trademarks, and design protection). In the years that have passed since then, 160 more countries have joined this treaty and have made this promise to treat nationals of other countries as well as they would treat their own nationals, in this area.
I was not there to see it in 1883 but I’d guess the roomful of people who negotiated the language of that treaty included few if any women and few if any people of color. Having said this, you can see that on this narrow question of of treating people from other countries the way you would want people from your own country to be treated, they got the right answer.
Now it is 2021 and we see things that happen in the world around us. Hate against Asian-American people. Hate against people because of the color of their skin. Hate against people because of their religion, or because of their non-belief. Hate against people because of the country they came from, or because of the country their ancestors came from.
Every one of us must speak out.
If you have a platform that permits you to speak, please use your platform to speak.
If a march or gathering happens near you to support Asian-Americans, or other groups that are targets of hate these days, please join the march or the gathering.
There are many ways that each of us can communicate our support to those around us. We must communicate our support.