The Foreign Service Journal, February 2011

F OCUS ON THE E CONOMIC /C OMMERCI AL F UNCT ION T HE I MPORTANCE OF P ROTECTING I NTELLECTUAL P ROPERTY R IGHTS 32 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1 merica’s first diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, benefited from our nation’s early es- tablishment of an intellectual property regime. Our Founding Fathers ensured that Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress explicit authority “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discover- ies.” More than two centuries later, the Department of State plays a key role in protecting those rights. Toward that end, in 2005 Congress created State’s Of- fice of International Intellectual Property Enforcement to strengthen the department’s ability to combat coun- terfeiting and piracy. IPE, which spearheads these efforts, falls under the Trade Policy and Programs Deputate in the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs. The office oversees enforcement of American intellectual property rights overseas, represents the State Depart- ment in interagency IPR policy discussions, participates actively in bilateral and multilateral negotiations to im- prove enforcement of those rights, and promotes the benefits of IP protection for innovation and develop- ment. State’s actions on intellectual property protection have a direct impact on the U.S. economy. Protection of IP rights gives consumers confidence that the products they buy are legitimate and will work as expected; pro- vides incentives to artists and inventors to create artistic works and much-needed innovations and inventions; and stimulates economic output, creating jobs. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and De- velopment estimated in 2007 that global cross-border trade in tangible, counterfeit and pirated products was as high as $250 billion. The OECD report does not take into account domestically produced and consumed products or non-tangible pirated digital products, so the impact is almost certainly greater. And these costs are expected to grow exponentially if enforcement is not im- proved. The United States’ transition to a knowledge-based economy makes the efforts of all agencies involved in IP protection all the more relevant. Rarely do intellectual property infringements occur as isolated events. Recent cases revealed that large-scale counterfeiting operations had ties to organized crime and, in some cases, terrorist organizations. S TATE CANNOT GO AFTER IP INFRINGERS ONE DVD AT A TIME , BUT THERE ARE STEPS THAT ALL POSTS CAN TAKE TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE ISSUE . B Y D AVID D RINKARD A David Drinkard is a Foreign Service officer working in the Economic Department’s Office of Intellectual Property En- forcement. He previously served in Tel Aviv and Ankara.