A New Congress Must Prioritize Intellectual Property

The 2018 election was certainly exciting, focusing on many key issues for Americans including the economy, healthcare, and jobs. Record numbers of voters throughout the country voiced their opinions by heading to the polls, and the newly-elected Congress will hit now the ground running on January 3, 2019.

As Members, new and tenured, begin to frame their priorities for the next few years, it’s critical they keep intellectual property (IP) rights top of mind.

IP is critical to nearly every aspect of our lives, and it’s the bedrock of innovation. It’s present in every industry, crucial to every American business, and it advances global economic and cultural prosperity. In the U.S. alone, IP-intensive industries employ more than 40 million Americans and account for 74 percent of exports and $5.8 trillion in GDP. Importantly, the average worker in an IP industry earns about 46 percent more than his or her counterpart in a non-IP industry.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Silicon Valley, the Texas oil fields, or the South Carolina craft beer industry, all companies rely upon IP frameworks and the assurance of patents, trademarks, and copyrights to create businesses and bolster domestic employment. Members of Congress looking for their state-specific IP employment data can find it in our Employing Innovation Across America study.

IP is also critical to the breakthrough solutions that keep us healthy and make our lives easier. The U.S leads the world in research and development and continuously discovers new medicines, technologies, and equipment. The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, has pioneered cutting-edge treatment options and life-saving medicines. One example is UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center’s recent partnership with the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology to test a vaccine that specifically targets cancer cells. This feat wouldn’t be possible if our lawmakers and representatives didn’t consistently promote an IP environment that fosters innovation and incentivizes risk-takers.

Beyond job creation and research and development, we rely on IP for consumer safety. Strong IP rights protect consumers, inventors, and manufacturers alike, and hold bad actors accountable. Recent trends show a new era of counterfeits, especially online, pose serious threats to American consumers. No longer limited to footwear, accessories, and apparel, illicit operations sell falsified products ranging from cosmetics to auto parts, electronics, and beyond. While lower prices can often seem appealing to consumers, these products are made without any quality or safety assurance. Accordingly, we’ve all seen reports of malfunctioning automotive parts, exploding electronics, cosmetics that cause skin reactions, and pharmaceuticals with toxic ingredients. Properly enforced IP rights are the only way to ensure that the products consumers buy are authentic and safe and promise confidence and reliability.

Globally, America leads the world in IP standard, and it’s imperative we remain an IP leader that other countries can look to. During the 116th Congress, lawmakers will be presented with opportunities to not only bolster domestic IP law, but also international IP frameworks with many of our trading partners – and they must capitalize. As trade deal negotiations continue throughout 2019, most immediately the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA), Congress should prioritize high-standard IP provisions that better represent modern economies and support global innovation.

The political discourse has grown to be increasingly heated, but IP can serve as a bipartisan and unifying force for Members spanning both ends of the political spectrum. More than ever, Congress should work together to reach consensus agreements that safeguard IP and fuel American innovation.

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