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Tom Donohue: Intellectual Property Drives Our Economy

What do software, footwear, biotechnology and publishing have in common? They are all industries that are steeped in intellectual property, or IP. Our economy is driven by the need to innovate, create and develop new ways to serve consumers, and IP-intensive industries play an essential role.

IP-intensive industries — everything from music to manufacturing — account for nearly 35 percent of total U.S. GDP and support 40 million American jobs. They are responsible for more than 60 percent of all U.S. exports, to the tune of $775 billion. Add it all up, and America’s IP is worth more than $5 trillion.

None of this is possible without strong IP protection. It allows innovators and creators to take risks. It enables them to invest time, money and energy to both develop new things and embrace new ways to distribute them. It helps guard consumers against dangerous fakes and ensures that they have access to the goods and services they want and need.

So we must foster an IP system that continues to strengthen our economy and serve consumers. Business and government each have a role to play.

Industry must lead by making IP protection a key component of business models. By taking proactive steps to safeguard IP, companies meet consumers’ needs while innovating new ways to deliver content, goods or services. Businesses should also work together. In online commerce, we’re seeing great collaboration among content creators, Internet service providers, advertisers and payment processing services to protect IP — which, in turn, protects innovators and consumers.

The government can help combat the criminal networks that steal IP, whether online or on a street corner. Recent successes have shown the importance of dedicated law enforcement resources and leadership in top IP posts to chase the bad actors down — and shut them down.

We also need modern rules at home and abroad. Those rules may take shape in legislation, such as efforts by Congress to address abusive and excessive patent litigation. Trade agreements are another way to establish modern IP rules. The Trans- Pacific Partnership agreement currently under negotiation between the United States and 11 other countries is an important opportunity to establish high IP standards among some of the world’s leading economies. In addition, we must seek stronger IP regimes in countries such as China and India, where both the opportunities and risks associated with IP are significant.

As long as our inventors, creators and entrepreneurs know that the fruits of their labor will be strongly protected by law, there will always be the incentive to innovate.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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