Five Years of Intellectual Property Advocacy

“If we lose our ability to create, innovate, and generate the best artistic, technological, and knowledge-based IP, then our economic formula for success in the global economy will fail.”

          Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 10/3/2007

And so, five years ago, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue announced the creation of the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC). With roots as a simple campaign aimed to modernize IP enforcement and laws, the folks behind the “Campaign to Protect America” quickly realized that a small campaign was attempting to tackle the Leviathan economic problem of counterfeiting and piracy.

It was clear that this cross-cutting emerging threat for business would need more than a campaign; it would need a permanent advocate. Thus, the GIPC became the official IP arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Since our inception, we have dedicated our efforts to combating IP theft on multiple fronts: domestic and international, physical and cyber, for the benefit of industry and consumers.

Needing to confront one of the worst economic downturns in our lifetime, Congress has rightfully renewed its attention to IP policy and enforcement to promote innovation and jobs. From the PRO-IP Act of 2008, to the establishment of the executive branch’s IP Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) to patent reform, Congress has shown a willingness to tackle tough issues facing America’s creative and innovative industries.

While many issues on Capitol Hill suffer from a strict partisan divide, the desire to maintain IP rights and to fight IP theft most certainly does not. We’ve experienced bipartisan support for virtually every IP initiative Congress has considered, primarily because our legislators have recognized that so much is at stake if we don’t provide adequate resources or meaningful enforcement.

In fact, we’d go so far as to say that IP rights are only as good as their enforcement thereof. This means it is utterly necessary to continue dedicating resources to those who are on the front lines of stopping potentially dangerous fakes at our borders and online. The Office of the IPEC, Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the National IPR Center, the Justice Department, Customs and Border Protection, and many others have done tremendous work and we need to help them keep the drum beat going, especially when IP theft is growing to epic proportions.

We also fully believe in fostering state and local enforcement programs. Since the signing of the PRO-IP Act, Congress appropriated $6.5 million in federal grants enabling state and local law enforcement to address IP crimes. The program grantees from all over the country have seized more than $195 million worth of infringing merchandise since October 2009— worth 30 times the value of the grants distributed. Giving local agencies a stake in enforcement efforts is not only a best practice, but a critical factor in fighting counterfeiting and piracy.

On the international front, the GIPC has dedicated resources for promoting effective IP stewardship and cooperation in markets including China, India, Canada and Europe. We also have pushed back actively on misguided efforts that would undermine IP rights in multilateral organizations, thereby harming the ability of businesses to innovate and bring the newest and most effective technologies to market.

We also lead the charge to promote robust IP rights in international trade agreements, such as in the current negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. We believe that trade agreements serve as an important model for economies from around the world to implement meaningful IP policies that in addition to propping up domestic industries and incubating homegrown innovation, will also respect the intellectual property of their trading partners.

But, pushing for policies or programs only goes so far. Over the years the GIPC has played an important role in filling the IP education and promotion gap. We’ve released reports that outline the importance of IP to green jobs, trade, and state economies. The latter report, IP Creates Jobs for America, was a first-of-its kind study drilling down the economic impact of IP-intensive industries to the state level, making the benefits tangible to state and local leaders.

The GIPC has also created educational platforms aimed at making IP digestible for officials and consumers alike. The Innovation Lifecycle provided a multimedia platform for U.S. audiences to understand the amount of work and resources needed to bring a product from idea to store shelf, while the newly launched IP Delivers serves as a dynamic platform with videos, blogs, and infographics aimed at promoting the value of IP to small and large businesses and to developed and developing economies around the world.

While we believe we’ve made important headway on IP policy and education, there is still much to be done. With the cost of counterfeiting and piracy projected to double to an astonishing $1.7 trillion annually within just three years and 55 million American jobs hanging in the balance, our work has only just begun.

Over the last five years, we’ve witnessed the debate over intellectual property move from the boardrooms to the dinner tables. As IP is thrust into the national and international conversations, you can count on the GIPC to be leading the worldwide effort to champion intellectual property rights as vital to creating jobs, saving lives, advancing global economic growth, and generating breakthrough solutions to global challenges.

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