This week, the Property Rights Alliance, along with Americans for Tax Reform and Digital Liberty, sent an open letter to the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress addressing the fundamentals of intellectual property (IP) rights, the positive impact that strong protections of IP rights have on the American economy, and the need to strengthen U.S. protections of IP rights even further. The letter was signed by more than 70 think tanks, advocacy groups, and individuals. While as a matter of policy, we at the Free State Foundation, except in rare instances, do not generally sign group letters, we certainly agree with the thrust of the letter and are happy to spread the word.
Here are some of the important points articulated in the letter:
- IP Rights Are Grounded in the Constitution: The Founding Fathers recognized the importance of IP in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
- IP Rights Promote Free Speech and Expression: Strong IP rights go hand-in-hand with free speech as creators vigorously defend their ability to create works of their choosing, free from censorship. By affording innovators and creators the ability to support themselves, IP rights promote free expression unencumbered by government.
- IP Rights are Vital to Job Growth & Economic Competitiveness: The most recent report on IP-related jobs in the U.S., by the Department of Commerce and the Patent and Trademark Office, found that in 2014, direct employment in the most IP intensive industries accounted for 27.9 million jobs. Indirect activities associated with those industries provided an additional 17.1 million jobs, for a total of 45 million jobs, or 30% of all jobs in the economy.
- IP Rights Must Be Protected Internationally Through Effective IP Provisions in Trade Agreements: Far too many foreign governments look the other way when it comes to the theft of IP. State-sanctioned IP theft from other countries costs the U.S. economy more than $320 billion annually. The lure of access to the U.S. market should be used as an incentive to convince trading partners that they should increase their protection of IP rights. Therefore, strong IP protections are integral to all trade agreement negotiations.
- IP Rights Are Integral to Consumer Protection and National Security: IP rights protect consumers by enabling them to make educated choices about the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of their purchases. In 2014, consumer electronics and parts represented 24% of total counterfeit goods seized, presenting a dangerous risk to American consumers if those products malfunction.
- IP Rights Must Be Respected and Protected on the Internet: The Internet is an incredible platform for innovation, creativity and commerce enabling widespread distribution of ideas and information. However, IP theft online is a persistent and growing problem. For example, between 2001 and 2015, U.S. recorded music revenues fell from $14 billion to $7 billion—losses largely attributed to online theft.
Strong protections of IP rights help artists and entrepreneurs earn a return on their labor, encouraging more investment, innovation, and growth throughout the U.S. economy.