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IP: The Roots of Innovation

IP: The Roots of Innovation

This article was originally published in Above the Fold on February 13, 2017.

The United States has long been one of the most innovative nations on earth. Many of the technological breakthroughs and cutting-edge ideas that drive global economic growth come from our shores. So what sets us apart? The roots of American innovation can be found in our strong intellectual property (IP) protections, which incentivize creativity by allowing those who conceived or developed an idea to reap the rewards of its success.

America’s forefathers laid the foundation for our innovative culture in Article One of the Constitution, establishing IP rights for inventors and authors. The model has worked beyond the wildest dreams of even those great visionaries. IP is a major driver of our economy today, supporting more than 45 million jobs in 81 industries and contributing more than $6 trillion in GDP.

Yet it’s important to remember that protecting IP in any country requires teamwork on a global scale. In our digital economy, if a song, movie, or piece of software created in America can be offered online for free in another country, then it can be downloaded illegally all over the world. Physical counterfeits can also be sold in online marketplaces and shipped internationally with surprising ease.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce established its Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) to help businesses navigate the patchwork of different laws worldwide that together make up our international IP framework. Five years ago, GIPC issued its first Global IP Index, ranking the IP protections of various nations based on a range of indicators. The Index provides a road map for each country to strengthen its protections and standards.

GIPC released its fifth annual Index last week and was proud to report that more than half of countries raised their overall scores from last year. The Chamber wants to help every nation, including our own, continue to improve. America is No. 1 overall but slipped to fifth place in the enforcement category. Reversing this trend will require increasing physical security measures to stem the flow of counterfeit products coming into our country and bolstering enforcement provisions in future trade deals.

Better enforcement of America’s IP laws will be a major focus of GIPC this year, and we will also continue to promote stronger IP protections in countries around the world. The data in the Index clearly demonstrate that IP standards play a fundamental role in the success of every nation, not just our own. As the roots of innovation, IP must be protected by any economy that wishes to flourish and succeed in the 21st century.

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