Can you remember a world without the internet? Barely, I suspect. The current generation of business leaders will be the last to remember a world without the internet. Young people today are more digitally connected than any generation before them. Unless new generations understand the role that intellectual property plays in driving global growth, there is a risk that future investment in this area will be seriously impaired - fact.

Even in an age of widespread digital piracy, any child scanning through popular streaming sites such as YouTube encounters copyright issues. Movies are restricted on streaming services – evidenced by Netflix’s walled garden of content. Music is also heavily copyrighted on sites like YouTube or SoundCloud. The way media is presented to young people, indirectly exposes them to IP regulation whether they know it or not.

This demographic has always been particularly conscious of the power of brands, be it clothes or technology.  From Adidas shoes to luxury designer products, young people help to shape and influence the value of brands and by association trademarks. Look at the new breed of ‘InstaCeleb’. These are the stars of Instagram – the social media of choice for the snap happy.

Putting social media aside for one second, what if this generation of young people could learn about the importance of intellectual property in a more intentional manner? For instance, learning about inter-country trade, how M&A activity has affected their own domestic economy (considering the importance of IP in company valuation etc). Inter - country IP activity is often an insightful commentary on geopolitical affairs but to make it resonate with this demographic, it is key to bring it back to them - how it affects their buying decisions, social stance and creative initiatives.

Future job growth

IP literacy is an essential skill for anyone hoping to succeed in today’s economy, regardless of their chosen field or business. The UK creative industry is worth £84.1 billion per year, growing at almost twice the rate of the wider economy. Let that sink in. Therefore, it is key for this demographic to gain IP awareness for their own initiatives and to respect the IP rights of others.

Encouraging entrepreneurship is an essential driver of economic growth and job creation across the world. EU activities such as Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs – a cross-border exchange programme for the young – and the Small Business Act work to create a supportive framework to foster youth entrepreneurship.

IP rights gives innovators the opportunity to protect their rights, providing legitimate commercial opportunities. It creates a more engaged and aware future generation of consumers, which is vital to the longevity of many industries. For a generation accustomed to consuming digital content (often for free and on demand), understanding the importance of protecting the rights of people that have worked hard to create something unique will help demonstrate the value attached to often intangible digital items. 

While it is up to governments to create the right environment for IP-affected industries to thrive through tax reliefs, inward investment in IP education programmes will play a critical part in promoting the next generation and powering the global economy. Digitalisation and technology are outpacing developments in law and education. It is therefore key to raise awareness in schools and colleges, illustrating the benefits of IP knowledge. There is a stronger argument more than ever, that IP forms a critical part of an education curriculum in this connected, digital age.