Congress Blog

Taking a day to celebrate innovation and intellectual property rights

Cornell University

Most Americans do not think about how property rights impact their lives. When they do, they consider it to be related to real property, like a home or car, and take steps to protect their value by locking doors and installing alarms.    

But few people realize that nearly everything they buy is the result of someone else’s idea, and that these innovations and products are protected by intellectual property rights (IP). They are also unlikely to know the significant value of IP to the economy and the opportunities that IP-intensive industries provide for tens of millions of Americans. 

The global importance of IP is recognized on World Intellectual Property Day, which is on April 26.  The theme for 2022 is “IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future.” Encouraging young people to participate in the innovation economy is a laudable and necessary objective, as well as ensuing that they understand the importance of protecting IP rights.    

While the intrinsic value of a work of art, book, movie, music, or story is subjective, the monetary value of IP rights to the economy can be quantified. According to a March 17, 2022, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office report, IP-intensive industries accounted for 41 percent of U.S. domestic economic activity in 2019. These industries accounted for 64 million jobs, or 44 percent of all U.S. employment, and an additional 47 million jobs that are directly supported by IP-intensive jobs. In addition, IP-intensive industries accounted for $7.8 trillion in gross domestic product, and include utility and design patents, trademark-intensive industries, and copyright-intensive industries. Workers in these industries have higher wages, better benefits, and are more educated than workers in non-IP industries.   

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of IP to the development of new drugs and vaccines to combat diseases. As the coronavirus spread around the globe, scientists, and researchers at companies around the world, but mostly in the United States, worked to develop a safe and effective vaccine. The companies that used mRNA in their vaccines based their work on decades of research after the discovery of mRNA in the 1960s, especially the publication of research by Katalin Karikó, and Drew Weissman in 2005 that showed how it could be used in vaccines. Lifesaving treatments for diseases like polio and pneumonia would not have been made possible without the groundbreaking work of Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Thomas Frances, Jr. While IP should be celebrated every day, World IP Day is a good opportunity to find or inspire the next great pharmaceutical researcher, who may prevent or cure the next disease that becomes a pandemic, a certain kind of cancer, or a rare disease.   

There are many other opportunities for young people to engage in IP-intensive industries. The music industry includes songwriters, performers, conductors, and engineers. The movie and film industry includes actors and directors, along with script writers, costume designers, hair stylists, production assistants, camera operators, animators, video editors, sound technicians, and lighting technicians. The economic benefits of film and television spread beyond those involved in its production. In Georgia, which could be considered the Hollywood of the East, there was $4.1 billion in direct spending on 366 movie and TV productions in 2021, covering not only the production, but also accounting, animal wrangling, food, home improvement, hotels, and other support services.  

Yet, there continue to be efforts to devalue and steal IP rights around the world. The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) annual Special 301 Report identifies countries that fail to provide adequate IP rights protection. The 2021 Priority Watch List of nine countries included China and Russia. The report also cited China’s large exportation of counterfeit goods, which was valued at $322 billion in 2016.  

These counterfeit goods include electronics, which pose both an economic and national security threat. Over the past two years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has added four Chinese companies to its list of those prohibited from selling goods and services in the U.S. On Nov. 11, 2021, President Biden signed the Secure Equipment Act of 2021 into law, which requires the FCC to stop reviewing any applications for networking equipment that poses a threat to national security.  

As part of World IP Day’s recognition of the next generation of innovators, the U.S., and other countries that value IP must ensure that the ideas and products that will emanate from these young people in IP-intensive industries are protected by enforceable and consistent laws. Protecting IP will ensure the next generation will be able to innovate for a bright and better future. 
Deborah Collier is vice president of policy and government affairs for Citizens Against Government Waste. 

Tags innovation intellectual property world intellectual property day

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