Knock-off Louis Vuitton purses, counterfeit software, and bootleg movies are examples of how great ideas and products get stolen, copied, or pirated. It happens every day in the U.S. One of the biggest sources of intellectual property (IP) theft is China.

On World Intellectual Property Day, we celebrate how Americans’ creativity and ingenuity enriches our lives and propels us to lead the world in innovation. 

To stay at the forefront, we need to protect protections for innovators and creators while making it a top priority for the U.S. government and the business community to stop IP theft-especially from our biggest foreign adversary. 

A Shark Tank moment

Imagine that you have made it to Shark Tank. You are standing before five sharks–Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, “Mr. Wonderful” Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, and Daymond John–having nervously just rattled through your presentation. 

The looks on their faces signal that they like your product and are wowed by your sales figures and profit margin. Everyone is leaning forward with interest to your every word as they touch and manipulate your product.

This is a dream come true after many sleepless nights, 20-hour days, countless no’s, and reaching the verge of bankruptcy.

You are about to strike a deal with a shark–maybe even more than one. You can already see yourself pitching your product to millions of willing QVC shoppers. 

Then, Mr. Wonderful shakes you back to reality with the simple question: Do you have a patent? You shake your head no. 

Suddenly, all of the energy and excitement over your product drains from the room. Two of the sharks slink back into their seats. One of the sharks is shaking her head in disbelief.

You have just learned one costly business mistake: not securing exclusive rights over the use of your product.

Women have a stake in protecting their intellectual property. Women contribute to the arts, film, music, fashion, science, business, and technology. They are entrepreneurs, content creators, and small business owners. 

Intellectual property rights are fundamental; they are critical to innovation and discovery because they allow creators to profit from their work.

Our intellectual property system grants protections to innovators and enforces those rights when infringed.

Threats to IP

Every day, bad actors–from criminal elements to nations like China–are targeting American ingenuity to steal our ideas, designs, images, and inventions. 

IP theft is unfair to the creators, costly to our economy, and poses a threat to our national security.

In 2017, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimated that the annual cost to the U.S. economy of counterfeit goods, pirated software, and theft of trade secrets is $225 – $600 billion. This figure does not include the full cost of patent infringement and economic espionage through hacking–estimated to be $400 billion per year. In total, the U.S. has suffered over $1.2 trillion in economic damage.

IP theft causes businesses and corporations to lose revenue and suffer reputation damage from inferior goods bearing their name, creators to lose potential revenue, and the government to lose tax revenue while consumers are saddled with increased costs for goods.

Some 50-80 percent of IP theft originates from China, much of it from patent infringement and copyright infringement.

More recently, piracy–the unauthorized copying, distribution, and use of copyrighted content such as music, books, software, tv shows, movies, patents, and trademarked items–has taken off targeting U.S. content creators and consumers. Pirated software becomes an easy vehicle for malware costing consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars. 

The implications to our economy and our national security are clear.

Investigating IP theft and pursuing enforcement against bad actors is important, but our national response needs to be strong and clear.

Government can’t fight IP theft alone though, businesses must work together to find innovative ways to discourage intellectual property crimes.

Bottom Line

Protecting one’s idea is not just good business sense, but a right that every innovator and creator should take advantage of. Our economy will thrive when IP rights are protected and IP theft is combatted at every level.