Intellectual Property: The Bread and Butter of American Business

By Mark Elliot

Earlier today, in his annual State of American Business Address, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue posed a fundamental question central to business today:

“How do we maintain and build upon the economic momentum that is finally taking hold?”

There is no single policy, regulation, or practice that will outright ensure the success of free enterprise as we navigate a steadily settling global economy. However, business in the coming year will be defined by a series of opportunities and challenges facing core principles of domestic and global commerce. Intellectual property (IP) rights and the need to foster innovative economies will be sitting front and center in 2014.

More than ever, the global economy has blurred borders, providing immense opportunity to open access to new markets, tap into incredible international talent, and drive international innovation and free market competition. This also means, however, that American businesses are feeling greater direct impact by foreign IP policies – good and bad.

As part of the U.S. Chamber, the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) stands strong to fight for the rights of creators and innovators around the world, with a promise that “we’re pursuing bilateral investment treaties with China and other countries, as well as much-needed improvements in intellectual property protections—especially in India.”

This growing need to address foreign IP policies will be punctuated later this month with the release of the 2014 GIPC International IP Index, which will provide a robust and empirical roadmap to create high-achieving and innovative economies around the world. The 2014 Index will build upon its previous iteration, showing that from Russia and China to Canada and Australia- innovative companies face significant challenges in economies of every development level.

While bilateral cooperation should remain at the forefront of our economic diplomacy, one of the proposed tools in 2014 for promoting an international innovative ecosystem lies within trade agreements. The next year in international commerce will undoubtedly be defined by the imminent conclusion of the largest trade agreement of its kind, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, as well as the progression of a trade pact with our largest trading partner, the European Union.

The far-reaching impact of trade is too important to rush through meaningless or toothless principles. Instead, as Mr. Donohue notes:

“We must have a high-quality agreement that opens markets for manufacturers, farmers, and service providers—and fosters the digital and creative economies. And TPP must include a strong intellectual property plank in order to earn our unqualified support and that of the Congress.”

Though the U.S. IP system is far from perfect, the 40 million American IP-intensive jobs driving 30% of U.S. GDP and 60% of exports exemplifies exactly how patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets have become the proverbial bread and butter of our economy and could well-serve other economies and countries seeking a slice of the American dream.

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