Thomas J. Donohue Thomas J. Donohue
Advisor and Former Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


February 10, 2020


America’s researchers, scientists, and entrepreneurs are driving the next wave of innovation—whether they’re developing lifesaving therapies for previously untreatable diseases or pioneering new technologies to improve the human condition. And what makes these achievements possible? In a few words: intellectual property (IP) rights.

IP rights are the backbone of our economy, rewarding inventors for their risk-taking and ingenuity. And in today’s global marketplace, it’s not enough for our own IP regime to be strong—other economies must also respect IP rights.

That’s one reason why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) published the 2020 International IP Index, an annual report card that ranks the intellectual property framework of 53 different countries. The Index is a roadmap for countries that aspire to greater economic growth, as well as an instrument for affecting global IP policy.

Since we first unveiled the Index in 2012, multiple governments have reached out to the U.S. Chamber to discuss ways to raise their Index score. These governments recognize that by making simple tweaks to their IP infrastructure, they can be 39% more likely to attract foreign investment and 38% more likely to attract venture capital and private equity funds.

This year’s Index brings good news. Countries around the world are recognizing the need to update their IP laws for the 21st century, including China. Just last month, Chinese and American leaders reached a Phase 1 trade deal that introduces a number of positive IP reforms, such as commitments by China to better protect against trade secrets theft and address forced technology transfer concerns. As a result, China jumped several spots in this year’s IP rankings.

Trade agreements like this are a powerful tool for strengthening IP standards globally. That’s why the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), while a strong deal overall, represents a missed opportunity. The final USMCA fails to substantially enhance IP protections for American innovators, and in this particular respect, cannot stand as a precedent for future agreements.

The U.S. should continue to pursue strong IP standards in trade agreements, in addition to pushing countries to enact policies to defend biopharmaceutical innovation. Our Index finds that many high-income economies with otherwise effective IP systems are undermining protection for biopharmaceuticals in an attempt to lower costs. These countries must find a way to contain prices without limiting access to cures.

Whether it’s through free trade agreements or domestic policies, the Chamber will continue encouraging economies to strengthen their IP regimes to usher in the next phase of global growth and innovation.

About the authors

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue

Thomas J. Donohue is advisor and former chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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