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Protecting Intellectual Property

The theft of intellectual property harms not only those inventors, scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs in the U.S., but also of those in other countries.

Intellectual property [IP] refers to creations of the human mind, including inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, designs used in commerce. Whether applied to musical performances, films, new technologies, or advances in medicine, the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights helps ensure the world will continue to benefit from the time, resources, and brainpower invested in developing new technologies, creative works, and new brands and modes of production. It also is essential to promoting open and fair competition, as well as sustainable economic growth.

But in pursuing the goal of fostering and protecting our intellectual assets, we face significant challenges. According to the White House's Cyberspace Policy Review, losses in the United States from intellectual property theft in 2008 alone were estimated to be as high as one trillion dollars. A recent study by the RAND Corporation linked Intellectual Property piracy to organized crime, narco-trafficking, and even terrorist groups.

The theft of intellectual property harms not only those inventors, scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs in the U.S., but also of those in other countries, including developing countries. As Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, Robert Hormats, emphasized in a World IP Day op/ed published on April 26:

"Many nations share an interest in pursuing a positive intellectual property agenda. Industrialized nations want fair access to foreign markets for their innovative goods and services. Emerging countries are also developing their own trademarks, brands, and creative products."

“Emerging nations, like China," said Under Secretary Hormats, "have a strong and growing interest in far more comprehensive and effective IPR enforcement. They need to more rigorously protect intellectual property rights for their own companies and for foreign companies – treating the latter fairly, just as they would want their business treated abroad."

More countries than ever are moving toward collaborative innovation. Companies are increasingly global "innovation networks" working with other firms, customers, suppliers, universities and government institutions around the world. Many products today incorporate technologies from several different countries and companies. Rarely are such complex products based solely on the intellectual property of a single business or a single nation. But, as stressed by Under Secretary Hormats, "nations that fail to protect intellectual property will find themselves cutoff from these dynamic global partnerships."

People everywhere have an important interest in protecting intellectual property. The United States continues to actively collaborate with foreign governments to protect and enforce intellectual property rights around the world."