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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2008

Stopping intellectual piracy

COMPETITORS in the global economy market knockoffs of American-made products at the considerable expense of American companies. But the hijacking of intellectual properties of U.S. products, by stealing their designs from engineering to packaging and even sales literature, should become more difficult under a bill recently signed into law by President Bush.

The bipartisan measure, championed for years by Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich, acknowledges the unfair position many businesses are put in when foreign-made products, which look identical to the one they've been selling, are suddenly winning their market shares. And foreign piracy and counterfeiting cases affect old-economy manufacturers, prevalent in the Rust Belt, as well as modern software designers.

The new anti-counterfeit bill is intended to help American industry stop foreign companies from engaging in theft of intellectual property through tougher prosecution and higher damages in civil counterfeiting cases. The White House also says the law will provide more personnel and training in the Justice Department to combat such theft.

The problem of leveling the economic playing field is vital. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, intellectual property accounts for more than half of all U.S. exports and drives 40 percent of the country's growth. Its theft costs the American economy $250 billion a year, not to mention 750,000 jobs.

A stronger national strategy to deter foreign competitors from taking unfair market advantage with knockoffs of American-made products from auto parts to pharmaceuticals should not only reassure U.S. companies, workers, and consumers, but also puts unscrupulous foreign entrepreneurs on notice that piracy will be punished. "In the fierce competition of the 21st-century global marketplace, intellectual property is one of the few areas where America has a clear advantage over foreign competitors," said Mr. Voinovich.

And now there's a new law to better protect its value.



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