Opinion

When U.S. Trade Secrets Are Vulnerable, Our Economy is Too

 

 As we move toward an increasingly innovation-centric global economy, original ideas are a more powerful currency than ever before. Success hinges on creativity, differentiation and keeping ahead of the competition. When our unique ideas, products or services are stolen, business slows, progress is halted and the drive to innovate is stifled.

Protection of intellectual property is essential for U.S. economic competitiveness and growth. Our economy and our people depend on it. According to FBI estimates, hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars are lost to foreign trade secret theft each year. These entities deliberately target economic intelligence in advanced technologies and flourishing U.S. industries.

IP-intensive industries have helped create nearly 40 million American jobs, and these industries drive approximately 60 percent of U.S. merchandise exports as well as a large share of services exports, according to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). When our intellectual property is vulnerable, our economy is too.

That’s precisely why businesses guard their trade secrets, the innovative and confidential practices, processes and designs that keep them competitive. And precisely why policy makers around the world are working to improve protections. In fact, a recent U.S. Chamber report estimates that trade secrets can comprise up to 80% of the value of a company.

On Wednesday, May 11, President Obama signed the Defend Trade Secrets Act – an act that authorizes private civil actions in federal court for the misappropriation of trade secrets, replacing inconsistent state by state laws. And last month, across the Atlantic, the European Parliament endorsed enactment of the EU Directive on Trade Secrets, which aims to provide a uniform level of trade secrets protection against unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure. This progress is critical to safeguarding intellectual property in these regions, but in a global marketplace we know there is much more work to do.

For U.S. companies large and small, innovation is one of our strongest differentiators. It’s critical but also increasingly tough to protect trade secrets as new risks and players enter the equation on the global level. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) addresses this challenge head-on. If approved, the trade agreement would advance fair and balanced rules among the 11 member nations, promoting and protecting American exports and innovation in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world.

TPP would ensure that companies have the legal means to prevent trade secrets from being disclosed –and also outlines appropriate criminal penalties and procedures for unauthorized and deliberate access to proprietary information. In a region of the world where companies face significant challenges involving trade secret theft, this agreement would protect American enterprise as well as those in all TPP member countries.

Business success depends on ingenuity and the ability to maintain a competitive advantage. Intellectual property theft doesn’t only hurt a company’s bottom line; it weakens their ability to launch new products and robs them of investments in research and development. The intellectual property protections in TPP will help foster innovation, encourage creativity and fuel American economic growth.

Peter Cleveland is vice president of Intel’s Government and Policy Group.

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