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Published:April 27th, 2007 14:53 EST
Stronger Enforcement, Better Intellectual Property Rules Needed

Stronger Enforcement, Better Intellectual Property Rules Needed

By SOP newswire

The following piece by U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab originally appeared in the April 26 edition of Investor’s Business Daily and is in the public domain. There are no republication restrictions.

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Knowledge is one of America's greatest economic assets. It is invisible, powerful and infinitely renewable. It is also vulnerable.

America's knowledge assets, in the form of intellectual-property rights, account for about one-third of the value of U.S. corporations, totaling $5 trillion or more, according to the president's Council of Economic Advisors.

Thursday is World Intellectual Property Day. On this day, in the words of Director General Kamil Idris of the World Intellectual Property Organization, "we celebrate the starting point of all intellectual property, the seeds from which all innovations and creative works grow — ideas."

Ideas are fuel for a knowledge engine that drives exports and economic growth. Some of the ways are familiar: U.S. movies thrill audiences around the world; U.S. biomedical technology and medical devices save and enhance lives; and U.S.-developed software powers global business.

Intellectual property also boosts America's trade fortunes, and those of our trading partners, in lesser-known ways: A new variety of seed, a new product invented to solve a customer's problem, a secret recipe and a trusted brand can all be keys to competitiveness and export growth. They are all intellectual property. Countries like Korea have used such tools to fuel their development, and countries like China aim to do the same.

Unfortunately, the power of knowledge attracts thieves. Pirates and counterfeiters would rather steal and imitate than create and innovate. They wind up stealing American jobs. And not just any jobs — workers in the U.S. copyright industries make 40 percent more than the average U.S. worker, according to one industry report.

Strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property is critical to a knowledge-driven global economy, and securing it requires a dynamic trade policy.

One visible part of that policy is enforcing minimum standards of protection required under the basic intellectual-property rules subscribed to by every member of the World Trade Organization. Earlier this month, the United States requested WTO consultations with China in an effort to resolve concerns that China is not living up to some of those minimum standards.

Of course, a trade policy that only focused on getting trading partners to do the minimum required under WTO rules would be the very opposite of dynamic. To thwart the thieves, we must work with trading partners in developed and developing countries to clear a path toward better rules, and enforcement that is effective and in step with today's challenges.

The U.S. free trade agreements negotiated under the congressionally granted Trade Promotion Authority are the leading edge of a dynamic U.S. trade policy for intellectual-property rights. U.S. free trade agreements are raising the standards of IP protection and enforcement among key trading partners to the highest levels and are delivering broad and deep improvements.

For example, Morocco was applauded by the copyright industry as having an excellent system following its FTA implementation process. Singapore has started to pursue criminal software piracy cases like never before as a direct result of the FTA. And El Salvador started carrying out major raids against pirate manufacturers using the new enforcement authority required by CAFTA.

The recently negotiated trade agreements with Korea, Panama, Peru and Colombia will continue this trend.

Soon, I will send the U.S. Congress the annual Special 301 report — the administration's country-by-country assessment of intellectual-property protection and enforcement. It will reflect the U.S. government's efforts to improve the global IPR climate.

When it is released on April 30, the report will note both improvements made by our trading partners in strengthening the protection and enforcement of intellectual-property rights, as well as continuing challenges, such as the "notorious markets" where counterfeiters and pirates ply their trade.

We will continue to give special attention to China and Russia. While we still face serious challenges, these trading partners have made some real progress. China recently joined the two key WIPO treaties for Internet copyright protection, and Russia has made strong commitments to improve intellectual-property protection and enforcement as part of the path toward WTO accession. Both are eager to promote innovation, and we are eager to work with them to make much needed progress in IP protection.

As part of the administration's Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP!) initiative, U.S. trade negotiators will keep working closely with law enforcement and other agencies to promote better enforcement practices and enhance the focus on IPR in international fora, such as the G-Summit, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the Security Prosperity Partnership with Canada and Mexico, and the U.S.-EU Summit.

To succeed in the battle against increasingly sophisticated pirates and counterfeiters, we must maintain a dynamic trade policy through more outreach, more alliances and more agreements.

U.S. inventors and artists deserve a trade policy that is as creative and innovative as they are. With the support of the U.S. Congress and the cooperation of our valued trading partners, they will get it.

(Susan Schwab is U.S. trade representative.)

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