Today Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Victoria Espinel and her team released extensive recommendations for legislative changes to ensure our intellectual property rights (IPR) laws are effective and to remedy deficiencies. Manufacturers believe these changes, some of which the NAM has been recommending for two years, will improve the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
We applaud the Administration and IPEC for their pro-active efforts to prevent the entry of counterfeit goods into domestic commerce because intellectual property is the lifeblood of American manufacturing. We are especially pleased by the recommendation to authorize Customs to share pre-seizure information about products with right holders to help it determine if the products are counterfeit. This is a change manufacturers have sought for a long time.
Manufacturing, yes manufacturing, is as dependent on intellectual property like patents, trademarks, trade secrets, trade dress and copyrights as copyright-based industries that receive considerably more attention. Counterfeiting and piracy are existential threats to manufacturers, the people they employ, and the consumers who come in contact with their products and services.
Theft is theft no matter if it is called three-syllable words like “counterfeit” or “piracy”. The trade in fake products supplants legitimate markets, steals our workers’ jobs and puts American and other consumers needlessly at risk as counterfeit pharmaceuticals, unsafe products and even hazardous materials are put into the stream of commerce on a daily basis.
While most people are familiar with the counterfeiting of luxury brands, counterfeiters are willing to engage in criminal activities by selling everyday items such as circuit breakers, extension cords, batteries, fireplace tools, golf clubs, kitchenware, toothpaste, cigarettes, windshields – the list can go on and on. Even semiconductor chips that can be used in guidance systems for America’s defense have been counterfeited and found in the United States.
As this nation looks to our economic recovery, it is important to note that IPR theft is an impediment to that recovery. Markets once lost through counterfeiting and/or damaged brands are not readily and easily recovered.
As cities and states face unprecedented budget shortfalls and deficits, it is important to note that IPR thieves don’t generally pay taxes and maintain books.
We know there is an important connection between economic growth and IPR protection. Multinational manufacturing companies spent $183 billion on research and development in the United States in 2008 – 77 percent of the total expenditures by multinationals on R&D. Why? Because they have confidence their ideas will be protected and in innovation in the United States. Companies that fully utilize their intellectual property rights generally succeed and have a higher market value than those that do not.
As this nation looks for solutions to global problems like energy efficiency, reducing emissions, and leading the world in the adoption of green technology and enhanced medical care, IPR protection will be critical. It must be a priority for the U.S. Government, not just in words but also in action. The NAM looks forward to continuing to work with the IPEC to further enhance the protection of American innovation.
Stephen Jacobs is the NAM senior director of international business policy.