Thursday, March 30 , 2017, 7:09 am | Fair 54º


Tom Donohue: Intellectual Property Champions, Then and Now

The original champions of American intellectual property predate the innovative and often high-tech products that we associate with IP today — by nearly 230 years!

Our Founding Fathers were tinkerers, inventors and entrepreneurs. So they understood that in order to build an advanced society driven by thinkers, doers and innovators, they had to ensure that ideas and inventions would be rewarded and protected. They wrote IP protections into the Constitution.

President George Washington went on to sign the first patent legislation into law, and it remains the basis of our system today.

Our founders couldn’t have imagined the astonishing feats successive generations of American innovators would achieve. Nor could they have predicted the globalization and technological advancements that would tear down many physical and economic barriers to commerce. But their pragmatic foresight has paid huge dividends for society and has made our economy the envy of the world.

Today, IP-intensive industries — everything from movies to manufacturing — account for nearly 35 percent of total U.S. GDP. They support 40 million American jobs, which pay 42 percent more than jobs that rely less on IP. They are responsible for more than 60 percent of all U.S. exports, to the tune of $775 billion. If you add it all up, America’s IP is worth more than $5 trillion.

Twenty-first century IP champions are innovators, creators, educators and enforcers of IP. They represent a diverse range of industries, interest groups, organizations and occupations. But what they have in common is that through their work, each is making an important contribution to our quality of life, as well as to America’s economic strength and competitive standing in the world.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center recently recognized its 2014 IP Champions just ahead of World IP Day. Among the honorees were a music professor who is educating students on the important value of copyrights; a tech company that is using robots to help treat autism; a consumer awareness campaign to help online shoppers avoid dangerous illicit pharmaceuticals; a partnership between law enforcement and major league sports to crack down on counterfeit merchandise; and many more.

The original IP champions bet that the United States would out-innovate the world — and they were right. To keep that competitive edge, we need modern-day champions to continue doing what they do best: coming up with ideas, creating new products and enforcing the rules to make certain that we all benefit from the world-changing advances that innovation brings.

To learn more about some of the leading individuals, companies, agencies and organizations that are making a difference in IP today, visit

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

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