Defending U.S. Intellectual Property; Foreign Theft of American Innovation Costs Jobs

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 26, 2013 | Go to article overview

Defending U.S. Intellectual Property; Foreign Theft of American Innovation Costs Jobs


Byline: Rob McKenna, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

There are few things U.S. workers value more than protecting the fruits of their labor and creativity. On Friday - World Intellectual Property Day - businesses across sectors and throughout the country celebrate American innovation, the millions of high-paying jobs it creates and the invaluable role it plays in rebuilding our economy.

However, today is also a reminder that this innovation is increasingly jeopardized by foreign companies that steal intellectual property to gain an unfair edge, and serves as a call to stand up for American ideas and jobs.

Rampant intellectual-property theft, especially in emerging markets with weak legal systems, enables those companies to cut costs, harming both U.S. manufacturing and technology employers. It destroys American jobs, slows economic growth and undermines our ability to compete.

Those companies invest savings from using pirated software and other stolen intellectual property to hire more staff, grow their facilities and expand research and development. Their savings from using pirated software can provide a real competitive advantage in any industry, especially where margins are thin. Meanwhile, American software developers are discouraged from investing in new technology and products when they know their software will be stolen.

We can't ignore the impact: There are 2.5 million fewer jobs today because of stolen intellectual property, according to the International Chamber of Commerce.

Fortunately, some leaders are working to tackle this crisis.

Recently, my successor as Washington state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, helped resolve a dispute over software-licensing issues with the world's fourth-largest aircraft manufacturer, using a first-of-its-kind unfair-competition law. The new law, which I helped pass in 2011, bans the sale of products manufactured using stolen or misappropriated technology in the state of Washington.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley recently forced Thailand-based Narong Seafood Co. to pay $10,000 to resolve charges that its use of unlicensed software provided an unfair competitive advantage over Massachusetts businesses. In California, Attorney General Kamala Harris filed lawsuits against apparel manufacturers in India and China for gaining an unfair competitive advantage over American companies by using pirated software in the production of clothing imported and sold in California. …

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