The following is a guest post by Chris Israel, former U.S. Coordinator for International Intellectual Property Enforcement.
Today, I had the opportunity to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to discuss the promotion and protection of American intellectual property overseas. Although I was specifically asked by the Committee to examine the challenges and barriers presented to American companies when they seek patent protection in key markets, many of the points that I attempted to make in my testimony are equally relevant in the copyright realm.
From May 2005 to March 2008 I had the privilege of serving as the U.S. Coordinator for International Intellectual Property (IP) Enforcement. We were tasked by Congress and the President to coordinate and leverage the resources of the U.S. federal government to protect American IP at home and abroad. This effort included a number of steps designed to recognize the importance of international IP enforcement matters. We focused on three key elements: actively engaging our trading partners, promoting IP protection through trade policy, and supporting U.S. businesses. Some elements of this effort included:
- Leading multiple interagency IP policy delegations to countries including China, India, Russia and Mexico.
- Engaging with trade partners such as the EU and Japan to coordinate efforts to promote global IP protection and launch efforts such as the U.S.-EU IP Working Group.
- Including IP enforcement within the work plan of the G8 and elevating IP policy within key bilateral fora such as the Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade with China.
- Helping negotiate strong IP provisions in 17 trade agreements that the U.S. entered in with countries such as Australia, Jordan, Singapore, Peru, Korea, Chile, Panama, Colombia and CAFTA-DR.
During my experience in this position, it became clear to me that it was, and remains, critical for the U.S. Government to provide guidance and support for IP-intensive U.S. companies competing globally. The direct and high-level engagement of the U.S. Government is essential to confronting challenges to the protection of innovation and IP globally. Some examples of recent efforts by the U.S. Government that have helped protect American innovation include:
- The USPTO’s Overseas Intellectual Property Rights Attache program, which was launched in 2006 and has placed IP experts in seven countries to support U.S. companies which have questions about important markets.
- Implementing 20 Country IPR Toolkits to provide U.S. companies expert guidance on patent policies and enforcement procedures in key global markets.
- In 2008, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez joined with multiple federal agencies and business leaders to open an expansive Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. The IPR Center has become a critical resource for U.S. companies to engage directly with policy and enforcement agencies to address specific matters that impact their ability to protect their intellectual property.
As efforts such as those outlined above have developed and grown, their importance has also increased dramatically. In my opinion, adequate and effective global IP protection has become a matter of U.S. competitiveness. As was reported by the Obama Administration in its March 2012 report “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus”. The report argues that if America does not sustain its strong legal protection of IP, then American ingenuity will begin to flow outside of the U.S. To support these claims, the Commerce Department attempted to identify which industries produce or use significant amounts of IP and how the industries identified as “IP-intensive” contribute to the U.S. economy. Although the Commerce report did not propose policy recommendations and stopped short of directing Congress on any legislation, Administration officials and private-sector leaders made the case for strong IP protections at a White House release of the report last week. U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson stated, and I could not agree more, that “It’s clear that intellectual property protection is more critical than ever so that Americans know their ideas will be protected, and they have greater incentives to pursue advances that keep us competitive.”
Countries that undercut American innovation through overt practices such laws that do not recognize or respect copyright, or through less obvious features such as lengthy application backlogs or weak judicial enforcement, are mounting a direct threat to U.S. competitiveness. The challenges and opportunities for U.S. companies in global markets are extraordinary. Today, theHouse Judiciary Committee has raised an important issue that impacts countless U.S. creators and U.S. businesses of all sizes and is at the core of our overall global competitiveness. It is very clear that U.S. companies face tremendous complexity and difficulty as they seek out global markets. But as the most competitive and innovative nation in the world, the U.S. should prioritize the promotion of a strong global environment for IP protection based on its work to modernize and strengthen our system in the U.S. U.S. companies do not just seek to protect their creations and innovations at the USPTO and then stop. They move on to countless other global markets to bring their artistic endeavors to the millions of consumers outside our borders. We should look to support these efforts by promoting the strong IP laws and practices we have developed in the U.S. in markets around the world.