IP enforcement to save U.S. jobs

Imagine investing a substantial amount of time and money to develop a creative idea into an innovative new product. You’ve staked your life savings in this venture, but you’re confident it has the potential to succeed in the marketplace, so you get legal protection with a patent, trademark or copyright.

The next step is to hire employees and begin production. Initial sales are strong—but then drop. What happened? It turns out that someone has stolen your idea. You must now compete with a knock-off, sold at a fraction of the price over the Internet.

A once-promising business is suddenly ruined, your investment lost and your employees without jobs. Unfortunately, similar stories about the theft of American ideas, or intellectual property, destroying businesses and jobs, are all too common today.

There is no doubt that intellectual property-based industries are key drivers of U.S. economic growth. They directly support more than 18 million jobs across the U.S. economy, and account for approximately 60 percent of our exports.

Yet, the theft of IP-protected products—everything from movies, music and software, to shoes, medicines and computers—results in an estimated annual loss of $250 billion in revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs globally, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Americans’ ability to channel innovation and creativity into successful businesses relies on an environment that supports and encourages investment and protects the fruits of their efforts. IP enforcement should be among the most critical components of a government’s efforts to create jobs and build the economy.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of leaders in Congress, as well as in the Obama administration, recognizes the connection between safeguarding IP and creating American jobs.

Progress is being made—but much remains to be done to protect America’s innovators and creators. And government is responding to this challenge. Just one year ago, the first White House-based intellectual property enforcement coordinator, Victoria Espinel, was confirmed by the Senate to oversee Washington’s IP enforcement work.

The IPEC released in June an ambitious national plan to improve and better coordinate efforts across the government to enforce and protect IP rights. Rather than play defense, the IPEC crafted a proactive and comprehensive strategy to fight against criminal networks and others who seek to steal Americans’ ideas.

Successful implementation of this plan is far from assured, however. It is going to require sustained cooperation between Congress and the Obama administration, starting with ensuring that the IPEC has sufficient resources to achieve her mission.

America has always been about innovation and creativity. Workers across the country depend on these industries to support their families. Research has shown that IP-intensive industries create jobs at all skill levels, on average paying their workers about 60 percent more than non-IP-intensive industries.

Examples of American ideas are all around us—from the latest smart phones to movies and medical treatments—and the next generation of jobs will depend on how effective we are in ensuring that the intellectual property behind them is given the protection it needs.

If America is to continue to lead the world in innovation and creativity, it is imperative that the administration and Congress make intellectual property protection a top priority. This year’s national IP enforcement strategy was a significant first step. And we are pleased to have a White House-based leader to get it done.

Implementing the plan will encourage our industries to continue to bring ideas into the marketplace, while creating jobs for America and fueling our economic growth.

David Hirschmann is the president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center.

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