Perfect Timing – the President's Strategy for American Innovation

Sep 22, 2009

In an address to the Hudson Valley Community College, President Obama highlighted the role innovation plays in economic growth and job creation, citing the next steps needed to lay the foundation for America's "innovation economy of the future."

The president then put forward some key themes to propel America into this new era of innovation. I am encouraged by the President's words and his commitment to innovation as an essential component to a strong and vibrant economy. His positioning on this issue could not have come at a better time.

Intellectual property rights—those protections that safeguard people's ideas—continue to be challenged both here and abroad. And America's enforcement of those rights is not up to snuff. The just-released World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report ranked the U.S. a disappointing 19th in how respondents assess America's stance on IP protection and enforcement

Public support for innovation is not new for this Administration. Just last week, Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, went on record strongly supporting IP protection and citing its importance to economic growth and prosperity. Before Congress, Mr. Stern reiterated the Administration's position that they do not support any efforts to weaken intellectual property rights, and would not support any climate change treaty that undermined existing IP laws.

Congress has also demonstrated strong support for innovation, passing several bills that would protect IP while providing increased enforcement measures. This activity, coupled with the President's Hudson Valley address, is building a wave of IP momentum that will translate into results. The President's strategy has three parts:

  1. Invest in the Building Blocks of American Innovation
  2. Promote Competitive Markets that Spur Productive Entrepreneurship
  3. Catalyze Breakthroughs for National Priorities

These components are key to our recovery and the economic transformation needed to increase jobs. Yet specific actions are needed if we are to realize these three goals.

To invest in the building blocks of American innovation, we must continue to protect the incentives that promote innovation in the first place. This means that as a government and a society, we must be diligent in safeguarding the laws and policies that encourage individuals to innovate and create in the first place. Whether it is here at home or abroad, the United States must aggressively defend and promote strong IP rights.

To promote competitive markets that spur productive entrepreneurship, IP laws must be harmonized and strictly enforced. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American people over $200 billion annually and lead to job losses in the hundreds of thousands. Immediate steps such as full congressional funding of the PRO-IP Act, reaching agreement on an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, and the White House appointment of the new Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) would send a clear message that IP enforcement is a priority for the United States.

To catalyze breakthroughs for national priorities, government can play a role by spurring increased R&D funding, providing tax incentives for innovation and creativity, and strengthening IP laws and enforcement. This renewed commitment will inspire entrepreneurs and provide the confidence in our system to encourage innovation.

All of these steps should be part and parcel of a new and broader national IP strategy that brings together all of the nation's efforts and activities as they pertain to IP enforcement and promotion. Properly coordinated, implemented, and monitored by the White House's new IPEC, these measures will clearly mark a new era of innovation in which extraordinary job creation, economic growth, and discoveries are the norm.

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