OP-ED: Preservation of IP: One of Many Goals in Copenhagen

As they attempt to construe solutions that will halt global warming, heads of state and government should resist the temptation to attack the legislation in place on intellectual property, writes Mark Esper, executive vice-president of the US Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center, in a December post.

“As the world gathers over the next two weeks in Copenhagen to reach consensus on how to address our climate change challenges, a bevy of ‘other’ issues – all related in some way to climate change – will be taken up. Among those will be intellectual property (IP) rights, and how they relate to the development and diffusion of new technologies that will help us reduce CO2 emissions and adapt to changes in our environment.

The Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) has been front and center in this debate, and our position is clear: if governments are serious about addressing climate change, and all agree that new technologies are a vital part of the answer, then IP laws and rights need to be protected in any Copenhagen agreement. Indeed, in our view, a Copenhagen Summit with NO mention of IP at all is a successful conclusion. Current international laws and norms are working, and need to be preserved.

IP laws and rights drive the innovative spirit responsible for the climate change technologies of the present – and future. The patent laws and system that embody IP rights are also essential to diffusing the knowledge and know-how often critical to newer discoveries. Protecting these rights is the only way to encourage the investment in time and dollars needed to move these innovations along. Most governments simply cannot shoulder this financial burden – nor should they. It is the private sector that will do the most (and best) dreaming, investing, inventing and commercialising of tomorrow’s innovations today.

The United States government has been very supportive of IP rights over the years, and the need to protect them in Copenhagen. Whether it is the Congress passing measures demanding IP protection in UNFCCC negotiations, calling upon the president to safeguard current international laws, or confirming (just last week) the nation’s first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, there has been overwhelming bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for protecting IP rights. And the same can be said for our president and his senior officials, who understand the value of IP and the role it will play in creating green jobs, spurring economic growth, and enhancing our competitiveness. The Obama administration believes America can realise up to five million new green tech jobs, and has incorporated this as part of its economic recovery and transformation plan.

Research has shown great promise for green job creation….provided that IP is protected in climate change talks. Studies have determined that job gains will not be realised if IP protections are weakened. Indeed, a recent green jobs study indicated that the United States could lose up to one million green jobs by 2020 – with losses increasing exponentially after that – and see foreign export markets close, if IP rights are undermined in Copenhagen. The same could happen in other parts of the world as well, such as Europe.

The Chamber has been very active in shaping the IP discussion in these negotiations, so as the Copenhagen talks begin, we are cautiously optimistic that efforts among some nations to weaken IP laws will not prevail. As the world deals with recession and climate change, IP stands as a job creator, economic stimulator, and pathway to climate change technologies that hold great promise for the future. Let’s hope our negotiators remember that as we get to the end game late next week.”

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