Protecting Intellectual Property in a Global Marketplace

Article I Section 8 of our Constitution establishes the framework for our nation’s copyright and patent laws. It grants Congress the power to award inventors and creators, for limited amounts of time, exclusive rights to their inventions and ideas. The founding fathers realized that this type of incentive was crucial to ensure that America would become the world’s leader in innovation and creative ingenuity.

Today, it is no coincidence that America is considered the most aggressive protector of intellectual property in the world and the world leader in innovation and creativity. However, many countries have failed to recognize the importance of intellectual property, which has not only harmed creators in those countries but also U.S. innovators seeking to expand into those countries.

The negative effects of international copyright piracy are staggering. In Russia, approximately 80 percent of all motion pictures and 83 percent of business software are pirated. Considering that the core copyright industries account for 6 percent of U.S. GDP and the total copyright industries account for approximately 12 percent of U.S. GDP, it is clear that America’s businesses are facing a serious problem. In fact, the FBI estimates that U.S. businesses lose between $200-250 billion a year to counterfeit goods.

However, the harms associated with piracy are not limited to a business’s bottom line.  In fact, such essential products as airplane parts and car brakes are currently being counterfeited. When these shoddy, fake products are introduced into the marketplace, citizens are exposed to risks of serious bodily injury and even death.

Recent treaties, such as the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement, provide the legal framework for member countries to aggressively enforce their copyright laws. Article 61 of the TRIPS agreement specifically requires World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries to establish criminal procedures and penalties to be applied in cases of copyright piracy.

The United States must lead by example and rigorously enforce our anti-piracy statutes.  Moreover, we must continue to work to make sure that each nation recognizes the importance of enacting and enforcing strong anti-piracy measures. Only when we coordinate our efforts to combat piracy will we see substantial results.