Today (April 26) is designated World IP Day by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Here is an op-ed by me and my Free State Foundation colleague Seth Cooper published in the Washington Times on April 24. The commentary explains why intellectual property is important and why the Founders included the Intellectual and Property Clause in the Constitution.
As we say in the first sentence, World Intellectual Property Day is “a day too little-noticed in most quarters but which shouldn’t be.”
Here is the beginning of the commentary:
According to a widely cited U.S. Department of Commerce study, intellectual property-intensive industries comprised over 38 percent of the entire U.S. economy in 2014, amounting to a $6.6 trillion contribution. Moreover, the same study found that, in 2014, IP-intensive industries directly accounted for 27.9 million jobs and indirectly accounted for an additional 17.6 million jobs, or about 30 percent of all U.S. employment.
Thus, it is beyond dispute that protection of intellectual property against piracy and theft, especially the protection of copyrights and patents, is crucial to maintaining a healthy U.S. economy in our information-dependent Digital Age. According to a 2017 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, the global value of international and domestic trade in counterfeit and pirated goods in 2013 was between $710 billion and $917 billion. And the global loss in value of digital piracy in movies, music and software in 2015 was $213 billion.
So, it’s easy to understand why strengthening protections against piracy and theft of IP are ongoing priorities and should be important elements in trade negotiations, whether in a multilateral context as with NAFTA or in a bilateral setting as with China.
But World IP Day ought to be about more than absorbing IP-related facts and figures. It should be a time to consider foundational intellectual property principles and to reinforce appreciation of the U.S. Constitution’s Intellectual Property Clause, which declares that Congress shall have power “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 Discoveries.”
What were our nation’s Founders thinking when they gave the national government the power to secure this “exclusive Right” in the Constitution of 1787 — even before securing other fundamental rights in the Bill of Rights? There is little in the record of the Constitutional Convention to answer that question. But there is much we know about the history of the colonial period and about the Founders’ philosophical predispositions that is helpful.
You can read the entire Washington Times commentary here.