Labor and Business Close Ranks in Support of IP

Mar 4, 2010

When two of America’s most prominent voices on jobs and the economy say the same thing, well, it is time to take notice. When it’s the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, then Washington should really pay attention. At its recent meeting in Orlando, the AFL-CIO Executive Council released a statement detailing the damage intellectual property theft causes to America’s workers and our economy, and further offered support for efforts to combat the growing crimes of piracy.

This is music to our ears, and I commend the AFL-CIO for releasing this statement.  But actually, labor has been on the right side of this issue for some time, and we’ve worked closely with some of the unions in the past in defense of strong IP rights.  

Here at the Chamber’s Global IP Center, we have been championing intellectual property rights as a major driver of economic growth and job creation, and have aggressively worked both in America and abroad to protect IP rights. Innovation and creativity will play a major role in our economic recovery, and labor’s public support of IP adds another valuable ally to our IP protection and job creation efforts.

Intellectual property (IP), or what is often called ‘creations of the mind,’ is a key component to growth and development around the world. Whether it is addressing challenges such as chronic diseases, diffusing knowledge through books and journals, providing entertainment such as movies and music, or contributing to a recovering economy through technologies and software  that create jobs, one thing is certain: protection of IP is the foundation of America’s competitiveness, and vital to our future.

The United States’ IP is worth over $5 trillion—more than the GDP of any other country, and is responsible for the employment of over 18 million Americans. Accounting for over one-half of all U.S. exports, IP drives 40 percent of our economic growth today, with even greater potential going forward.

And as the AFL-CIO Executive Council noted in its statement, online theft and other forms of piracy are not “victimless crimes.” They in fact cost U.S. industries billions of dollars in lost revenue each year, which in turn directly affect workers’ benefits and the very jobs they hold.

Counterfeiting and piracy also affects consumers—from fake electronics that fail to perform as advertised, to fake pharmaceuticals with toxic chemicals that can kill patients.

Yet although protecting IP such as copyrights and patents makes common sense, you would be surprised how many groups are trying to weaken IP rights in the U.S. and abroad. This is why labor’s recognition of the importance of IP to job creation is so significant—a business/labor alliance on IP rights and protections is awfully hard to crack.

Labor’s support adds to a growing and broadening pro-IP voice in Washington and around the world. We have worked with state and local governments and international bodies to support the strengthening of IP rights and enhanced enforcement efforts.  Just recently, President Obama spoke of the need to protect IP rights as an important part of our recovery, not long after Vice President Biden convened a meeting at the White House to discuss these very issues. And this summer, we look forward to the Administration’s presentation to Congress of the nation’s first-ever National IP Strategy to improve the government’s coordination and effectiveness in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy.

The AFL-CIO’s statement is a clear indication of the importance of IP rights to jobs in this country, and I commend them for their position. As the Chamber’s Global IP Center moves forward with our 2010 pro-IP agenda for the Hill and the Administration, we look forward to working with labor and other IP stakeholder in an effort to enhance the protection of IP as vital to reviving America’s economy and creating high-paying and rewarding jobs for our future. 

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