Protecting Intellectual Property Rights Is Critical To Ensuring Competitiveness

April 7, 2010
Pirated DVDs and CDs

About the Author: Robert D. Hormats serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs.

As the U.S. continues to innovate and create jobs in knowledge-based industries -- from healthcare to movies -- it's clear that the protection of intellectual property is becoming increasingly important.

In fact, protecting intellectual property is critical to ensuring the competitiveness of some of our most inventive sectors. American workers, businesses, researchers and entrepreneurs must be able to reap the returns of their creative work. That means we have to ensure that intellectual property is protected in foreign markets and that international standards allow our technologies and creative industries to compete everywhere. Doing so is one of my top priorities.

Over the past several weeks, I have met with representatives of numerous internet and technology companies, the entertainment industry -- including unions representing creative industry workers -- agribusiness, pharmaceutical companies and others in the private sector. All mentioned the importance of intellectual property protection.

Each time I address an audience about this issue, I am asked how the State Department can help. We have a long history of working with foreign governments on intellectual property rights and advocating for U.S. interests. Through a partnership between the Bureaus for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs and International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, we leverage $4 million in crime funds annually to organize government-to-government training programs for judges, prosecutors, and customs and border officials in key countries of concern. Our posts in these countries also conduct educational and outreach programs to build broader public awareness about the importance of IPR and support host government enforcement efforts. For more information on U.S. government IPR training activities, visit

I am also working very closely with the Administration's new Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel. Ms. Espinel will be issuing a new IPR Enforcement coordination strategy in the next few months, and we look forward to continued collaboration with her office, and other U.S. agencies, to promote and protect U.S. IPR interests overseas.

I look forward to sharing with you in the future more about the State Department's efforts to help promote innovation and protect and enforce intellectual property rights.



Eric L.
Massachusetts, USA
April 8, 2010

Eric L. in Massachusetts writes:

It is my hope that Ms. Espinel understands that IP regulations should go little further than protection of Trademarks, as the issue of fraud is one which directly subverts the consumer. As to copyright and patent law, however, many of the regulations already in place do little more than to hinder the workings of the free market - rather than ensuring competitiveness overseas, these outdated principles prevent innovation at home. Without the ability for companies to improve upon the work of their competitors without being subject to IP law, we can expect those countries who need not abide by our regulations to always have the upper hand in innovation. Modern IP law does little more than enforce a new kind of monopoly that hurts consumers and smaller businesses at the expense of large corporations. Both copyright and patent law need to be revised significantly to aide in our country's continuing economic recovery.

April 8, 2010

Helen L. in Canada writes:

Canada and USA already have intellectual agreements./

Joon R.
District Of Columbia, USA
April 11, 2010

Joon R. in Washington, DC writes:

I think the protection of Intellectual Property is important. As the article stated, the guarantee that inventors and entrepreneurs have the ability to protect their creative work is one of a few incentives. If there were no protection, we would see the lack of innovation as inventors would see that their work could be stolen and do not see the pay-off as worthwhile if others are able to free-ride off their innovation. Trademarks also may have limits, such as 20 years for patents. This requires the inventor/entrepreneur to continue to be creative in order to be competitive in the market.

The only problem that can be seen and may need to be addressed is how companies leverage the laws. We see that it is a potential problem in the pharmaceutical industry. We see that pharmaceutical giants do not want to see a decrease in revenue and market share due to the entry of generic drugs. Thus companies will sometimes alter the drugs. This allows companies to use laws as a shield deterring competition so that they may continue to have a strangle hold on the market. There should be standards set in place not to used to create innovation rather than suppress innovation.

James W.
West Virginia, USA
April 12, 2010

James W. in West Virginia writes:

A major threat to intellectual property is insider use of digital steganography. This technology is easy to find and use and allows insiders to steal intellectual property or other confidential or sensitive information without any risk of being detected because intellectual property owners have not deployed any countermeasures to the threat. Actually, for the most part, owners of intellectual property are not even aware of the threat. International concern about the use of steganography is on the rise as evidenced by the fact that 95% of our license sales are to international customers. Accordingly, I highly recommend the State Dept. help to educate IP owners about the growing threat from insider use of steganography.

Montana, USA
April 12, 2010

Inigo in Montana writes:

Understandably, the protection of intellectual property is of paramount concern to everyone except those in violation. Synergistic ramifications of innovation will trend upwards into highways of diversity, leading to geometric increases in standards of living and more efficient use of production spent manufacturing the next generation of human resources. The issue of violation, however, is of concern. Since worldwide accords of enforcement… and the enforcers to enforce it… are lacking, violations will have to be rectified by self-funded nongovernmental groups, made up of individual units lacking sufficient stability to be included in standard human resource pools. These groups, provided with sufficient intelligence, should be able to induce enough stress among accused violators to encourage proper recognition of international conventions regarding intellectual property. If these motivational therapies should prove ineffective, the use of hyperbolic disinformation should be encouraged to motivate said nongovernmental groups to higher levels of effectiveness until satisfaction is achieved.


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