Celebrating the “Good Guys” of IP


By Katie Denis (originally posted on FreeEnterprise.com)

The often unseen value of intellectual property (IP) was heralded at the Chamber’s IP Champions conference and awards today. Hosted by the Global Intellectual Property Center, the event honored creators, innovators, and protectors, celebrating IP and, at the same time, questioning its future.

In his keynote address, honoree and Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton asked a question that seemed to linger in the room long after its delivery:

If we can’t afford to protect innovation, how will there be innovation to protect?

The value of protecting innovation was reinforced by award recipient Eden Full, the founder of Roseicollis Technologies Inc., the company that produces the SunSaluter. Aimed at improving energy infrastructure and helping reduce the impact of climate change, the SunSaluter rotates solar panels with the sun’s movement to optimize their output, all without using any electricity.

Full, a junior at Princeton University, learned quickly the value of patents and armed with the appropriate protections she hopes that she can literally change the world with her innovation. She’s already started, with five functional pilots in East Africa and plans for Indonesia and the Philippines. Full said she wants to give developing nations the “opportunity to fairly deploy the technology in their own countries.”

The danger when intellectual property is not protected was illustrated by honoree Jonathan Taplin, a professor of University of Southern California Annenberg and a former tour manager for Bob Dylan and The Band. Today, he helps identify advertising networks which may support online piracy operations, but it was a decade ago that he learned how devastating online piracy can be. Levon Helm, the drummer for The Band, was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s. Taplin said because of the site Limewire, the royalties that Helm had enjoyed for decades dried up, forcing him to go out on the road to raise money to pay his medical bills. Taplin told the audience, “This is not just about companies and lawyers. It’s about people.”

Taplin’s sentiment was echoed by Director Morton who issued a firm reminder that the fight against counterfeiting and piracy is not just about Hollywood movies and designer handbags, but about safety and the economy. Morton cautioned that sitting on the sidelines of a debate that is “much more serious and complex” than fake DVDs is not an option: “When the line between the lawful and the criminal is invisible, watch out.”

Though Morton encouraged vigilance, he believes that protecting intellectual property is something the U.S. will get right. “The good guys ultimately win this fight,” he said. “Our economic future depends on it.”

Image: Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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