IP and trade

Across industries and borders, IP is essential for global trade

Intellectual property (IP) is the linchpin holding together a complex network of industries responsible for innovations across the world. And when inventions and creations move across borders, the innovators behind them depend on IP protection overseas.

Whether it’s a motion picture, a revolutionary telecommunications technology or a life-saving medicine, IP protection ensures that innovative products and compelling creations are rewarded, incentivized and accessible for people around the world. However, the unfortunate fact is that some industries’ IP rights are being severely threatened, neglected and actively whittled away in many countries.

When governments undermine IP, they risk economic growth, social progress and global health. A glimpse into IP threats in some key sectors highlights just a few of the many detrimental impacts of unfair trade practices by certain countries.

  • Information Communications and Technology. The growth and proliferation of information communications and technology (ICT) has made previously unimaginable advances in communication, connection and information-sharing possible; it also has transformed the global economy and generated thousands of new, high-quality jobs for people around the world. Alarmingly, however, several countries have imposed harmful measures that threaten to erode the IP protections that the industry relies on.  The most pressing global threats to the ICT industry’s IP ecosystem were highlighted in the Computing Technology Industry Association’s (CompTIA) 2019 submission to the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) 2020 National Trade Estimate (NTE) report on trade barriers. Specifically, CompTIA’s comments call out interference in patenting and licensing agreements as well as policies and mandates that favor local ICT innovation. This, in turn, undermines IP rights, leads to poor enforcement of commitments made under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) to ensure criminal penalties for those engaging in intellectual property infringement, and allows for unbalanced copyright laws. While CompTIA’s comments noted several countries with regulatory environments that jeopardize ICT IP protections, including the Philippines, Germany and Spain, the Association noted that issues around IP in China are especially concerning.


  • Entertainment. The entertainment industry connects and unites people from across the world through stories, particularly through film. Regrettably, a number of IP threats to the entertainment industry puts the producers, writers, actresses and actors, and other workers who create motion pictures we watch in theaters and on personal screens at risk. This is highly detrimental for an industry that is dependent on original ideas and content.The Motion Picture Association’s (MPA) comments to the USTR’s NTE report on trade barriers outlined a range of anti-IP practices occurring around the world. MPA cited internet piracy (i.e., illegal downloads) and camcorder piracy (i.e., when unauthorized recording occurs in theaters) as illegal practices occurring in countries around the world. Many countries’ authorities fail to enforce laws against internet and camcorder piracy and, in some countries, policies have actually been enacted that weaken IP protection. MPA specifically called out detrimental IP environments in Brazil, China, India, France, Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, among a host of other countries.


  • Medicines. Effective IP protection and enforcement plays a critical role in ensuring biopharmaceutical innovators can research, develop and provide patients around the world with access to life-saving medicines. Unfortunately, many countries threaten the global system of biopharmaceutical innovation through unfair practices that undermine IP protections that are essential to incentivize and sustain the cost-intensive, risky process of research and development.The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s (PhRMA) submission to the USTR’s NTE report calls out Canada, Japan, Korea and Malaysia among other countries with discriminatory, unfair and/or noncompliant practices. Such practices include patentability restrictions, compulsory licensing, regulatory data protection failures, and localization barriers that mandate technology transfer and discriminate against imports. These practices not only harm the biopharmaceutical industry and the live-saving medicines and patients it supports worldwide, but also threaten the global ecosystem of innovation, knowledge and progress.

Inventors, innovators, artists and other workers deserve to have their inventions and creations protected across the world.

Inventors, innovators, artists and other workers deserve to have their inventions and creations protected across the world. Addressing the range of barriers, discriminatory practices, illegal activities and other policies across borders and industries would help ensure that tomorrow’s cure, movie or life-changing technology is developed and accessible to people across the world.

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