Our great nation was founded on innovation and invention. The allure of America and the American dream is intrinsically connected to the premise that each and every idea has the potential to change the world and the way we live our lives. From Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs, one may say that while the United States may not be the birthplace of invention, it certainly is a place where invention can thrive. As Edison himself said, “I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.” But what good is the innovation born out of the hard work of America’s people if it is not protected? Since our forefathers founded this country, the ideas, innovations and inventions the U.S. nurtures to fruition have been coveted by countries around the globe. The threat of Intellectual espionage has existed globally for centuries. Intellectual property law exists to do just that – and exists at the global level – but in today’s world, how is the U.S. combating the increasing vulnerability of our intellectual property?
When President Trump met with China’s President Xi Jinping last year, his agenda was very clear – protect the U.S. intellectual property assets and end China’s alleged “economic espionage”. Trump’s trade war with China is fueled by the threats China poses to the intellectual property assets of our country, which have become increasingly vulnerable due to China’s trade policies and the growth of a global digital marketplace.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, “IP is protected in law by patents, copyright, and trademarks, enabling people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. China’s joint venture requirements, according to the Trump administration, are in direct conflict with this premise -and are constructed to intentionally expose intellectual property to the Chinese government. Trump’s administration estimates that China’s cyber intrusion of American companies is costing the US as much as $600 billion dollars – driven by China’s pirated software, counterfeit goods, and their ability to reverse-engineer many American-born products and services. It also touts that through China’s practices they are able to evade the United States’ own export control laws.
President Trump has demanded for China to protect intellectual property rights and to conduct fairer trade – Trump’s imposed tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the US were designed to offset the alleged theft of trade secrets from counterfeit brands to stealing technology, and the financial losses associated with those breaches.
The issues surrounding China’s trade practices and the threat they post to United States are not new to the Trump administration – a 2011 report by the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that IP-focused companies lost up to $48 billion to Chinese infringement in 2009 alone. In fact, a recent poll by CNBC found that 1 out of 5 American companies have had their intellectual property assets stolen within the past year. And while the Trump administration has delayed additional tariffs as trade talks progress, the path to eliminating this threat is still largely uncertain.