Though they might sound, well, boring, intellectual property (IP) laws play a critically important role in the creation of the things we consume and health of the U.S. economy. If, after all, regulations didn’t exist protecting a person or a company’s hard-fought breakthroughs, then there would be little incentive to start a business. To show just how valuable IP laws are, here are five unexpected companies and entrepreneurs who rely on these rules for their economic survival.
1. Taylor Swift
Arguably the world’s biggest musical act, Taylor Swift is currently on a worldwide tour promoting her latest album, “1989,” which has sold nearly 5 million copies since it was released last November—a huge accomplishment given a years-long trend of eroding music sales. Yet part of Swift’s success has undeniably come from fiercely protecting her intellectual property, which in Swift’s case, includes the songs she writes and records.
In an era when people are increasingly opting not to pay for the music they consume, Swift has waged high-profile battles to ensure she is compensated for her work. She famously pulled her music catalogue from Spotify, citing this desire, and she even succeeded in convincing Apple to pay artists and songwriters when their music is streamed during the company’s free three-month trial of its new digital music service.
The same IP rules that ensure other artists cannot simply copy and profit from Swift’s music also protect companies like Apple. The technology giant is one of the world’s largest companies for a reason: It designs, manufactures, and markets some of the most innovative consumer products of the past half-century. Without IP regulations, Apple would have no way of preventing other businesses from simply copying its award-winning designs, potentially affecting its market share and earnings.
For Apple and countless other tech firms, IP rules protect the significant investment that goes into driving the innovation economy forward. If they didn’t exist, it’s hard to imagine that Apple would spend billions of dollars on research and development—or that it would even exist in its current form.
3. Amy Schumer
It’s hard to go online these days and not come across a news story about Amy Schumer. The comedienne is blowing up, thanks to a rabid fan base. But as a performer and writer, Schumer is someone who depends on IP laws to protect her growing clout.
Take “Trainwreck,” the new Judd Apatow-directed comedy that Schumer stars in and wrote. Existing U.S. rules and regulations ensure that Schumer is properly compensated for her screenplay. Other forms of regulations, moreover, aim to prevent the movie from being pirated, guaranteeing that the men and women who worked on its creation and marketing will not lose money for their participation.
4. Second Sight, a company that’s restoring sight in blind people
Second Sight is pioneering innovative research that is helping blind people see again. But without IP rules, there would be little incentive for the company to spend millions of dollars researching and developing its state-of-of-the-art technology.
Patents play such a crucial role in securing the California company’s investment that it recently joined an alliance of businesses that have come out in support of patent and IP rules. As Second Sight chief executive officer Robert Greenberg said of the move: “Patents not only protect our ideas but help us attract the investment capital we need to continue funding the research our company was founded on. Without this funding, our efforts to develop a visual prosthetic to restore vision to the blind wouldn’t be possible.”
To learn more about Second Sight, check out our full article on the company: “California Company’s Technology Reverses Blindness”
5. J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling is known around the world as the author of the enormously popular “Harry Potter” book series, whose seven novels have been turned into equally popular feature films. Much like Swift or Schumer, Rowling can thank IP laws for her continued ownership of her work.
That’s because Rowling holds the copyright—simply the right to copy something—for Harry Potter. It’s up to her whom she licenses Harry Potter to, and it’s because of IP laws that she could theoretically prevent or stop someone from publishing a book that overly draws on the characters and ideas she utilized in the fantasy book series.
As fans of Harry Potter will attest, the world is a better place because of Rowling’s sprawling universe. Next time they pick up a Harry Potter novel or watch one of the lavishly budgeted feature films, they can thank IP laws for making sure the brand has not been diluted by forgeries and unauthorized offshoots.