Business Group Calls For Stronger Intellectual-Property Rights

Dow Jones Newswires

A key representative of U.S. big business is ramping up its drive to keep intellectual-property rights from being watered down in global climate-change negotiations.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s global Intellectual Property Center says one million green jobs would be lost by 2020 and export markets would be significantly damaged if governments adopt “compulsory licensing” and other anti-intellectual-property policies. The group, which issued a new report Wednesday, said weakening intellectual-property rights would hinder the U.S.’s ability to address climate change in the long run by undermining investment in new technologies.

The issue is gaining prominence as climate-change talks intensify ahead of a United Nations meeting in Copenhagen in December. Some developing countries want easier access to technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Compulsory licenses would require companies to let others use their technology.

Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue equated that to theft and called on businesses to “keep the heat on” elected officials to strengthen intellectual-property rights.

The new study looks at the impact of compulsory licensing on jobs in the solar, biofuels, wind, batteries and light-emitting diode, or LED, lighting sectors. If involuntary compulsory licensing were included in a climate deal, as many as three million jobs could be lost in the five industries, the study asserted. In four out of five of the industries, half of foreign export markets would be lost, the Chamber said.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk didn’t detail the Obama administration’s stance. “I don’t know that we have reached a final resolution of that,” he told reporters. But during a speech to the Chamber, he took a hard line against piracy in general.

“We believe that every economy around the world will benefit when all of our trade partners play by the rules. The rules on intellectual property are clear: Pirates and copycats are not to be tolerated,” Kirk said. “We’re not talking about flattery. This is theft. There’s nothing funny about it.”

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