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New Report Pushes for Strong Intellectual Property Protection

by Chris Brook on Monday February 28, 2022

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The report encourages the United States to engage like-minded partners on new tools to counter IP theft and better protect IP at home for trade purposes.

A new research paper is pushing for robust intellectual property protection in trade, arguing that keeping it top of mind can help keep the country competitive.

The report, issued last week by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a D.C.-based think tank, argues that a competitiveness-focused approach to trade policy can help advance the interests of U.S. firms and workers alike.

While the report certainly has an agenda to push when it comes to molding trade law and policy, it has a lot to say about advancing IP protection and knows how integral a company’s trade secrets can be to the company. In some instances, as the paper notes, a company may not exist without it.

“To say IP is an elitist concern reserved for big businesses blatantly ignores a vital part of advanced industries and tech leadership. Start-ups—especially those in research and development-intensive industries such as tech, pharma, and biotech—literally would not exist without IP protection,” the report reads.

One of the ideas the report tries to drive home is that if done effectively, combating against IP theft should deter foreign and state-sponsored groups from stealing and profiting from U.S. IP. Keeping sensitive IP in the hands of U.S. firms should also translate to stronger U.S. firms and employment and in turn, happier workers.

While portions of the report are focused on shaping trade policy, one of the report's goals are to heighten awareness around IP theft and brainstorm new ways to counter it.

“The United States should engage like-minded partners on new tools to counter IP theft, especially from China,” it reads at one point. “Just as the United States should add countering IP theft to the agenda for cooperation with the European Union and Japan to the ‘Trilateral Framework,’ it should be added to the agenda for the TTC.”

The TTC, the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, is a group formed last summer under President Biden, European Commission President von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel that regularly discusses topics involving trade and practices that threaten competitiveness.

IP theft has remained a serious issue for US firms, especially those that traffic in costly high tech.

While the Biden administration recently ended a national security program set up to fight back against Chinese espionage – it replaced it with a new program, Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats, designed to counter theft from countries in addition to China, including Russia, North Korea, and Iran - there's no denying the threat China-linked hackers pose to U.S. IP.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has gone on record multiple times stressing the frequency his office opens a case to counter Chinese intelligence operations. Last month, at an event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, he claimed the FBI opens a new case every 12 hours and that there are over 2,000 currently open focused on Chinese government trying to steal U.S. information or technology.

To that end, the report is also pushing Congress and the White House to pass legislation designed to empower U.S.-based firms to better protect themselves from state-sponsored IP theft. As an example, it cites the SECRETS Act, a bill introduced last summer designed to strengthen the International Trade Commission’s ability to fight back against trade secret misappropriation. Under the bill, companies believed to be a victim of IP theft could ask the ITC to block imports of products developed with their trade secrets.

While it remains to be seen if the think tank's report will have any sway in Washington, it's hard to argue with the benefits IP protection brings U.S. firms.

Tags:  IP theft

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