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Intellectual Property Helps Fuel an Economy Built To Last

A recently released Commerce Department report indicates that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to our gross domestic product (GDP), while fostering economic security for America's middle class with wages that are 42 percent higher, on average, than wages in other industries.

At a White House event last week, the Administration released a comprehensive Commerce Department report on the contributions of intellectual property to the U.S. economy. The report finds that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to our gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, IP-driven jobs are good jobs, providing wages that are 42 percent higher on average than wages in other industries, contributing to economic security for America’s middle class. 

The Commerce Department report highlights 75 industries that use patent, copyright, or trademark protections most extensively. These widely diverse industries support more than a quarter of all jobs across the United States. Twenty-seven million of these workers are on the payroll or under employment contract within IP-intensive industries, and nearly 13 million more are indirectly supported through the supply chains that service these industries. These companies depend on a strong, healthy, and balanced intellectual property system. 

Wednesday’s report underscores the importance of the Obama Administration’s work to reform our Nation’s intellectual property system as part of the President’s strategy for creating an economy that is built to last. President Obama signed the America Invents Act into law on September 16, 2011, after nearly a decade of efforts to reform the Nation’s patent laws. The new law helps companies and inventors avoid costly delays and unnecessary litigation and lets them focus instead on innovation and job creation. It also gives the USPTO new tools and resources to improve patent quality and more closely aligns the American patent process with the rest of the world to make it easier for entrepreneurs to market products simultaneously in the United States and abroad.

The America Invents Act gives the USPTO the resources to reduce patent application waiting times significantly, building on the great strides the patent office has already made in reducing the patent backlog by nearly 15 percent despite the fact that patent filings have been increasing. The USPTO has also begun implementing a new prioritized examination process known as Track 1, which offers businesses of all sizes an opportunity to have important patents reviewed in one-third the time with a new fast-track option that has a guaranteed 12-month turnaround. Already, more than 3,000 applicants have taken advantage of this program, which also offers a 50% discount for small enterprises. This program allows the USPTO to speed up the processing of the patents that are most likely to quickly create good jobs. Track 1 builds on the Green Technology Pilot program that accelerated patent applications involving reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy conservation — at no cost to the inventor. Under this program, 3,500 patent applications addressing 21st-century energy and environmental challenges have been fast-tracked and reviewed in about 10 months. Additionally, a series of international work-sharing agreements called the Patent Prosecution Highway has helped about 10,000 patent applicants receive IP protection in 22 different countries—faster and at a lower cost. This kind of international collaboration is especially important in breaking down the legal barriers that exist for smaller companies trying to export their products into a global economy.

Through the implementation of the America Invents Act, the Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, and other efforts, the Administration is building a strong and balanced system of intellectual property rights that provides greater certainty and equips businesses of all sizes with the tools they need to develop and export their products faster. At the same time, we are committed to an intellectual property rights system that recognizes that IP rights are fully consistent with other core values such as the norms of legitimate competition, free speech, fair process, and the privacy of users.

As President Obama has said: “The key to our success -- as it has always been -- will be to compete by developing new products, by generating new industries, by maintaining our role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation. It’s absolutely essential to our future.”

Quentin Palfrey is Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy