Protect Intellectual Property
Intellectual property (IP) is the economic currency of the 21st century. Businesses that rely on IP employ more than 19 million Americans, and they account for more than one-third of U.S. GDP and one-half of U.S. exports. IP provides the incentives for the world’s most innovative minds to develop cures for deadly diseases, productivity-enhancing software, safe and plentiful food supplies, and clean energy technologies. IP rights also enhance our cultural life.
However, IP is under attack around the world. Counterfeiters and pirates have built a global criminal enterprise that destroys jobs, undermines innovation, and endangers consumers. IP is also under threat by some activists and a handful of governments that promote the view that IP rights are an obstacle, rather than a catalyst, to economic development and growth.
Protecting IP abroad begins at home. The 2008 PRO-IP Act created the U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator, who is charged with creating a comprehensive, government-wide strategy to improve IP protection and enforcement. This national IP strategy must also address the rampant and growing problem of IP theft online.
Outside our borders, the United States must continue to play a leadership role in pressing the global community of nations to protect IP. Given efforts by activists worldwide to undermine IP, U.S. officials must adopt a forward-leaning agenda to promote IP and innovation in multilateral forums such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, and regional forums such as APEC.
In addition, U.S. officials should prioritize enforcement of IP provisions in U.S. trade agreements already in force and ensure that international accords now under negotiation, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, include strong IP protections. The United States should act quickly and decisively against governments that undermine IP, e.g., by issuing compulsory licenses.
Greater international cooperation is essential to arresting international trade in counterfeit and pirated products, which the OECD estimates reached $250 billion in 2007. To this end, the United States and other countries must continue to work with like-minded governments to raise standards for the protection of IP through the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). ACTA strengthens enforcement, improves legal frameworks, enhances international cooperation, and promotes best practices for combating counterfeiting and piracy.
ACTA helps protect innovators, workers, and consumers all around the world. Best of all, it incentivizes them to keep creating the products on which we all depend.
Above all, defenders of IP must educate key audiences around the globe about this vital issue. Success will depend on a close working relationship between the business community, Congress, the Administration, and other allies, including organized labor. Nothing less than America’s competitiveness is at stake.
- IP must be a priority for senior officials in the U.S. Administration and for members of Congress, and federal agencies should receive the resources and authority they need to promote IP worldwide.
- U.S. officials must adopt a forward-leaning agenda to defend IP and innovation in multilateral and regional forums and act decisively against governments that undermine IP, e.g., by issuing compulsory licenses.
- Governments must work together to raise standards for the protection of IP through the Anti-Counterfeiting and Trade Agreement and by enforcing IP provisions in U.S. trade agreements.