State of Intellectual Property

By Mark Elliot

The creative and scientific discovery process often yields new and exciting ideas, but intellectual property (IP) is the driver that brings them to life, and turns ideas into innovations. IP-driven innovation delivers job creation, new solutions to the world’s problems, from health care and the environment, to ensuring consumers have safe access to a dizzying array of new content and products.

As we celebrate World IP Day, it is worthwhile to review advancements made over the past year and the current “state of intellectual property.” The theme of World IP Day this year, Creativity: The Next Generation, puts into perspective how creativity and innovation will lead the next generation into the future.  But how is that creativity and intellectual property being treated in 2013?

The impact of IP has expanded significantly in the modern economy. While there are positive movements forward, much work remains to be done.

Over the last year, while many governments are seeking to incentivize innovation and investment in creative industries, some nations have taken steps in the wrong direction. Specifically, in GIPC’s recent study, GIPC International IP Index: Measuring Momentum, research showed that the last year has produced “setbacks in protecting, implementing, and enforcing IP rights” in several important areas around the world. These challenges to innovative thinking and knowledge economies include:

  • The Obama Administration proposed only seven years of protection for biologics in its budget, instead of the needed twelve that is current law.
  • Estimates indicate that nearly 25% of all Internet traffic worldwide is in furtherance of copyright infringement.
  • Counterfeit drugs continue to multiply online. According to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, only 3% of online pharmacies operate legally.
  • China continues to be the biggest market with the largest IP theft problem, and despite some positive steps, online piracy and counterfeiting is rampant, trade secret theft is growing, and IP enforcement is weak.
  • The Government of India took actions that deteriorated the protection of IP rights that affect all industries and negatively impact businesses’ ability to invest in India. These actions are bad for patients and consumers, bad for investment, bad for innovation, and bad for India. These actions include, but are not limited to, the revocation and denial of patents that are valid in many other countries.
  • Recent court decisions in Canada have created an inhospitable environment for innovative pharmaceuticals.
  • A number of countries proposed plain packaging requirements, undermining the value of trademark protections by depriving brand owners of the ability to use their mark in commerce. These proposals depart from internationally accepted IP commitments and set a dangerous precedent at the expense of IP protections for a variety of industries.
  • Other important countries such as Russia and the Ukraine have not done enough to combat widespread IP theft.

Fortunately, many domestic and international efforts have provided for more security of IP rights, and will continue to generate innovations and attract investment in the economies that follow these principles:

  • Significant work by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator has continued to focus on improvements in domestic enforcement, voluntary arrangements between responsible companies, and a strategy for tackling trade secret theft.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to stop IP theft around the country, including the successful effort of Operation in Our Sites.
  • The United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 Report continues to inspire countries to strengthen IP protections and to work with the U.S. to address problems raised.
  • The voluntary, educational Copyright Alert System launched, providing copyright owners, Internet companies, and consumers alike with a non-confrontational way of reducing online piracy.
  • Canada passed a long-awaited bill making important strides in modernizing its Copyright Act.
  • International leaders signed a new treaty for audiovisual performers’ rights.

Today, on World IP Day, it is important to consider the work still before us.

While the current economic situation may be on the rebound, governments have the power to harness and amplify the forward-movement by supporting pro-innovation policies. These must include securing modern robust IP rules and effective enforcement measures. Domestically, the United States has the opportunity to lead by example and strengthen dedicated resources and funding for enforcement efforts. Additionally, our economic progress is intrinsically tied to the interactions with our trading partners, particularly in international agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

In the year ahead, GIPC looks forward to continuing to lead a worldwide effort to protect the IP rights that are essential to creating jobs, advancing economic growth, and improving the lives of people across the globe.

Mark Elliot is the executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center.

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