Stopping the Flood of Counterfeit Goods

A shelf of pirated DVDs.

The theft of U.S.-manufactured intellectual property is a billion dollar a year business. 

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The United States Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center recently released its 2014 International Intellectual Property Index. It’s a document that everyone who cares about the long-term health of the U.S. economy should take a look at.

“A robust IP system provides the critical foundation needed for nations wishing to advance their economic and social progress, and provide assurances to consumers that the products they use are authentic, safe, and effective,” said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the GIPC said in a release. “By highlighting countries that are leading or lagging in fostering a strong IP framework, the GIPC Index provides a clear and objective tool for policy makers to strengthen innovative potential and for business leaders to assess risk and investment.”

The index is a survey of 25 countries with diverse economies reflected in varying market size, level of development and geography. It provides an empirically-based measurement and comparison of the IP environments of each country, something with which policymakers in the United States are still trying to come to terms.

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Key findings of the report include:

  • The United States received the highest overall score, but came in third after the United Kingdom and France in the enforcement category.
  • Canada’s treatment of pharmaceutical patents, copyright laws and unwillingness to ratify international IP treaties resulted in significantly lower scores than other upper-income economies.
  • Similar to the inaugural GIPC Index, India continued to score lowest, most notably in categories relating to patents, copyrights and international treaties.
  • China shows improvements in certain aspects of its patent regime, however, its overall IP environment continued to see challenges, particularly in regard to trade secret protection and enforcement.

Now in its second edition, the GIPC Index evaluates 30 factors indicative of an environment for intellectual property that fosters growth, including protection and enforcement of patents, trademark, copyrights, trade secrets and participation in relevant international treaties. Although none of the 25 countries surveyed received a perfect score of 30, the United States received the highest score of 28.3, making it the global leader in protecting IP. Nonetheless, officials of the GIPC said, the United States needs to do more to keep up with global trends.

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“The United States may lead the overall ranking, but has fallen behind in its enforcement efforts,” said Hirschmann, who urged the White House and Congress to “expand on current enforcement programs and allocate dedicated resources throughout the government to effectively enforce IP rights and protect consumers.”

No one should be under the illusion that the United States is not being flooded with counterfeit goods. From phony football jerseys to knock-off purses, from counterfeit DVDs to deceptively labelled pharmaceuticals, the theft of U.S.-manufactured intellectual property is a billion dollar a year business lining the pockets of international criminal cartels and even some terrorist groups. The need for the federal government to protect U.S.-manufactured IP is written into the body of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a foundational responsibility of the national government, one that Washington needs to take more seriously that it currently does.