This World Intellectual Property Day, protect America's inventors
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I strive to teach my daughters that they can all invent the next best mousetrap. As a capitalist, I then start discussing ways they could make money off their invention. That might not be the parenting style for everyone — it sometimes isn’t even the type of parenting that my wife likes.  But the reality is, the incentive of profiting from your invention is what drives the innovation and progress — and that starts with protecting Intellectual Property.

As we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day, I think that this is important to talk about because when we think about invention, we don’t often think about the money-side of the equation, but without those incentives most inventions would never have made it off of the shelf.

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That is what makes World Intellectual Property Day so important; it is a day for the whole world to celebrate the protection of ideas. It is a day to celebrate not only innovation, but also the incentives that Intellectual Property and patent protection provides innovators to take risks — and what has driven the U.S. to lead the world in innovation. Invention is expensive, for the garage inventor the expense could mean maxing out their credit card, it could mean leveraging their home equity, and even asking friends and family to do the same.

 

This risk isn’t imagined. I personally know inventors that are divorced because of the financial risks that they took. I know people that have lost hundreds of dollars, hundreds of thousands, and millions of dollars.

But, their risks often benefit of society….and possibly their pocket books when and if their invention works out and they have it protected well. Therefore, we have intellectual property to thank for everything from the gyro bowl (fun), to wifi, and possibly the next big life-saving innovation that fights cardiopulmonary disease.

However, while IP has made the U.S. the economic superpower that it is, if our stance on protecting intellectual property changes then we could easily lose our leadership position. Especially as other countries start catching onto our secret to success — and they are. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently published their annual global IP index, and in it the U.S. had dropped from 1st to 10th in the category of “Patents, Related Rights, and Limitations.” This is the first time the US has not been first which should be disturbing for economic forecasters.

It gets worse though. Turns out, the Obama administration may have set us back on the IP front. According to a recent report by the GAO, the Obama administration had a “lackluster” history of protecting intellectual property. The effects of this oversight are not trivial.

Currently, trade agencies from around the world are working on ways to devalue U.S. intellectual property in a bid to make their own intellectual property more valuable. For instance, the Korean FTC is currently going after Qualcomm to protect and promote Samsung in violation of our trade agreement with them.  Other nations have also been making moves to target more U.S. companies.  Actions by these international agencies are not happening in a vacuum.  At a recent conference on Intellectual Property policy in Washington, former government officials and legal experts pointed out that foreign regulators around the world watch the actions and rhetoric of U.S. officials on IP and antitrust very closely.  As a result, they have felt emboldened in recent years to target the IP of U.S. companies doing business in their countries.

When the U.S. FTC launched its own investigation of Qualcomm in the final days (hours) of the Obama administration, Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen (now the acting chair) said the move was based on no evidence of harm and more importantly was sending a message to competition authorities overseas and “will undermine U.S. intellectual property rights in Asia and worldwide.”

And, it isn’t just big companies that have problems with overseas IP theft.  A small company in Southern California called Eliptigo, whose CEO testified before a congressional committee on patent protection, noted that they spend a good portion of their day playing IP theft “whack-o-mole” against foreign competitors.

Hopefully part of making America great again is renewing our focus on protecting our American Intellectual property.

Patent protection is one of the few specific policies mentioned in the constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8). It should have been a priority of the last administration. Intellectual property must be a focus of this administration. And, just like we celebrate today, we should always celebrate the value that intellectual property has provided to us all and take action to protect it for future generations of Americans.

Today, I am going to celebrate today by spending some time inventing with my daughters. Maybe some policy makers should get together and invent a new way they could help.

Charles Sauer, an inventor and entrepreneur, is president of the Market Institute and previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor, and for an academic think tank. He has been published on Entrepreneur.com, Fox Business, the Daily Caller, and Women Entrepreneur in addition to writing congressional testimony and speeches for politicians, business owners, and academics.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.