Nov 17, 2014 - 9:00am

Intellectual Property Has Huge Impact on Society


President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Strike up a conversation about intellectual property (IP) at a party and you’ll likely find yourself standing alone. Though it may seem like an abstract concept to some, IP plays an essential role in our culture and economy by driving innovation, protecting consumers, and supporting everything from music, cinema, and sports to health, tech, trade, and more. In other words, anyone who’s interested in the hottest new smartphone, the latest blockbuster film, the most promising new drug therapy, the safest toys for their children, or the next major U.S. trade agreement is interested in IP—whether or not they know it.

IP is critical to public safety and consumer confidence. Strong IP protections and enforcement are important to preventing dangerous products—such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals or toys—from getting into consumers’ hands. Trademarks give customers confidence that they are buying genuine, high-quality products from brands they trust.

IP is an incentive for innovations that enhance and improve our lives. When artists, inventors, or scientists have assurances that their works will be protected and rewarded thanks to IP rights, they are more inclined or able to produce. With strong copyright laws, musicians are more likely to record new albums. Patent protections enable pharmaceutical companies to take on the costs and challenges of putting lifesaving new drugs on the market. Without opportunities for ownership or profit, the incentive to innovate falls.

IP has an enormous effect on our economy. America’s IP is worth $5 trillion. IP-intensive industries account for 38% of total U.S. GDP, support 40 million American jobs, and drive 60% of U.S. exports. Strong IP provisions have also emerged as a key factor in the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a sweeping trade deal that would grant the United States access to booming markets in the Asia-Pacific, adding U.S. jobs and creating more opportunities for industries to export. Such a vibrant and lucrative trade relationship must be built on mutual trust and high standards.

Any issue with such widespread impact and significant ramifications will present unique public policy challenges. Tomorrow the U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center will host its Second Annual Global IP Summit, convening leaders from the private and public sectors to consider IP threats and opportunities. All the stakeholders must unite behind efforts to advance commonsense reforms, strengthen IP at home and abroad, punish those who undermine IP rights, and educate the public on its significance.

IP is an issue that we can’t afford to ignore, dismiss, or misunderstand. Its impact on our culture and our economy is far too great. 

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About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donahue
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.