Moving forward by protecting intellectual property
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As an economic power, America must continually strive for an ever-stronger economy. The stronger our economy, the more jobs we create for Americans – leading to more opportunities for businesses owners and entrepreneurs to be successful. As we enter a new year, let us advocate for what keeps our economy strong: fewer trade barriers and the protection of intellectual property (IP) rights. Both provide our nation with opportunities to grow, incentives for research and innovation, and support for American workers.

Protecting IP rights is crucial to keeping businesses competitive, both domestically and globally. It is this competition that fuels advancements in innovation and research in our country; innovation that ultimately improves our everyday lives. IP rights guarantee that consumers can make safe and educated decisions when purchasing a product or service. In addition, IP allows small business owners and entrepreneurs to profit from their creativity; it provides them opportunities to develop successful businesses.  But IP rights go beyond just benefiting small businesses. In fact, IP constantly drives our economic growth, helping create jobs  -- millions of jobs.

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report from the U.S. Commerce Department states that IP-intensive industries help generate approximately 45 million jobs across the country – most of them highly paid. The Global Innovation Property Center estimates that workers in these industries make about 46 percent more than average.  This means there are millions of Americans working in these industries – which help keep our economy stronger – for enterprises that keep moving forward and winning in competitive markets; making our nation a top competitor in the global economy. And, the number of jobs related to IP rights is only expected to keep growing.

Beyond the creation of more jobs, IP also drives our general economic growth. The U.S. Department of Commerce states that IP accounts for 50 percent of American exports and 40 percent of the country’s GDP. Specific industries, such as the biopharmaceutical industry, have a substantial impact on our country’s economy and rely heavily on the protection of IP rights in order to keep innovation going.  In 2014, the biopharmaceutical industry generated a contribution of $1.2 trillion to the American economy; not to mention the estimated 3.5 million jobs generated by this industry alone. Of course, the pharmaceutical sector is only one example of just how substantial IP is to industry, and therefore to our economy.

As IP grows as a key aspect of our economy, it is necessary that we move forward with protecting it. Not only will this benefit the economy across our nation, it also keeps us competitive globally. And, the more we advocate for IP protection, the more we encourage trade; and trade agreements such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) help support growth, while helping impose the right kinds of protection for IP rights.

Trade and IP rights go hand in hand, and as we move forward into the new year, it becomes crucial that these issues are addressed now more than ever. Officials at the state and national level must keep advocating for the right protections for intellectual property, as it continues to be a crucial component of innovation in the United States. Let’s hope that over the next year, IP protection is stronger, government officials advocate for fewer trade barriers, jobs become more plentiful, and our economy continues to get stronger.

Sara Croom is executive director of the Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity. She worked for years on Capitol Hill for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and served at the White House in the Office of Legislative Affairs under President George W. Bush.