Hearing Marks Importance of IP to America’s Economy

Nov 4, 2009

Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Victoria Espinel was historic. As part of the PRO-IP Act that was signed into law last year, the Senate is moving towards confirmation of the nation’s first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) who will be entrusted with the heavy task of improving enforcement and promoting IP rights in the U.S. and abroad.

As historic as the new U.S. IPEC is, what is even more noteworthy is the fact that the Obama Administration and ones before it have consistently recognized the importance of IP to the American economy. This view is also shared by the U.S. Congress, which passed the PRO-IP Act last year and continues to support intellectual property initiatives that have come before both houses.

If Ms. Espinel is confirmed, she will assume a post that carries great expectations. Intellectual property is essential to America’s economic resurgence, and there is an urgent need—as required under the PRO-IP Act—for a first-ever National IP Strategy that clearly spells out how stronger IP enforcement will be achieved and IP rights will be defended and improved.

Economic growth depends in good measure on the IP rights that drive innovation, and with this growth comes investment and research and development funds that create jobs. U.S intellectual property is worth $5.5 trillion – more than the gross domestic product of any other country, and accounts for more than half of all U.S. exports, helping to drive 40% of our domestic growth. The national IP strategy will send a message to all stakeholders—big and small, private and public—that not only is the Administration and Congress serious about protecting IP, but they have a concrete plan to promote and strengthen it here and abroad.

Victoria Espinel is a well respected IP expert who, once confirmed, should make an excellent U.S. IPEC. What remains to be seen is how effective this position will be in terms of bridging the gap between pro-IP rhetoric and decisive action.  Key to this will be the resources she has available to do her job, and the authority and access to make things happen.

It will begin with the national IP strategy, because without this, I don’t believe developing an economic plan that maximizes the talents of America’s workforce and the ideas of our people is possible to achieve.  The creation of the U.S. IPEC signifies a common understanding of the importance of IP to jobs, the economy, and human progress. Once the U.S. IPEC is confirmed, the development, coordination, and implementation of policies and plans to protect IP will be the first real measure of success.

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