“Intellectual property rights are only important for large corporations; they make everything more expensive for consumers, from prescription drugs to music.”
“IP rights impede innovation and new business development.”
“IP rights prevent developing nations from competing against established economies.”
These are some commonly held public opinions. They unfortunately are becoming mainstream beliefs.
Choosing Between Creativity and Counterfeits
The IP community needs to address these misperceptions and explain more clearly why IP rights are essential to everyone. While IP owners are spending considerable energy debating refined legal questions about patent reform and harmonization, the basic principles of the system are being challenged. Consumers have gotten into their minds that everything they desire would have been invented and provided to them at a lower price even if there were no intellectual property rights. No opposing voice is pointing out that it would not be economically viable for creative people to simply donate their ideas to the public. We all would like to pay the least for the most, but wouldn’t we rather pay a little more and guarantee the ability of the artist or manufacturer to reinvest and do the research necessary to produce the next desired product? Or do we want to take the easy way of ignoring tomorrow and buying counterfeit products to get those lower prices now? Is that really the choice? Yes!
Supporting Exclusive Rights and Competition
When an artist creates a movie or an inventor creates a video game, prescription drug, synthetic skin or anything else that makes people’s lives better, that person deserves to receive protection against copying. Those creative people deserve to receive a premium for their efforts and should be able for a limited time to exclude others from copying the inventions, books or works of art so that they can recoup their investment, make a profit and hopefully be in a better position to provide the customer with the next great thing. The consumer might want to buy the same thing for cost or even lower and dismiss the need for paying respect to the artist or manufacturer by characterizing the artist or corporate manufacturer as rich enough. That selfish thinking is disastrous from the viewpoint of creating a legal framework that encourages the progress of the arts and technology. If there are specific instances where someone takes unfair advantage of the intellectual property system, such as by misusing their patent rights and engaging in anti-competitive practices, the law should deal with them severely. Fair competition - between creators with different solutions to a problem who are given the exclusive rights to promote their inventions - is the engine that moves technology ahead and creates new products. This is what we should support.
Benefiting From Medical Research and Quality Products
If there is no strong intellectual property protection for those who conduct research and development, who will spend the money to invest in treating and curing diseases? If you were investing money in a college fund for your children, would you be pleased to know that the company with which you invested the money adopted some utopian philosophical view that your money should be distributed to others? When I go to a movie, I expect to pay an admission fee to attend. I feel that way even if a fake copy of the movie is available. If the expensive name brand watch my uncle gave me stopped working and the store wouldn’t fix it because it was a poor quality fake, my uncle and I would feel cheated. If the medicine I purchased from an online prescription pharmacy turned out to be a counterfeit and didn’t do what it was supposed to, or even worse if it did something bad, I would feel cheated and afraid. If you buy a counterfeit product you may be supporting an organized criminal activity or supporting businesses that use child and slave labor in unsafe conditions? How good was that bargain price?
Transforming Developing Countries
People in developing countries who are given quality educational opportunities have the capability to create and invent, and they have the potential, if their governments institute responsible IP laws and enforcement mechanisms, to take advantage of the power of intellectual property laws to transform their lives and communities. The paradigm of developed versus developing countries based on IP ownership is a false argument. The balance of IP ownership can be shifted in favor of any person, group or society that learns how to harness the power of innovative ideas using intellectual property mechanisms. Developing countries should be focusing on solving the problems in their societies and using intellectual property strategically to leverage the solutions for their benefit.
Preserving Our Traditions
For more than 200 years in America we have been operating from a morally principled, solid philosophical principle of fairness. If an invention meets certain agreed-upon standards, we have decided that it is fair to grant its inventor the right to exclude others from making, using or selling that invention for a limited time. This constitutional principle has worked to help advance our standard of living. It has made our economy work, and it has created wealth. Making an invention and obtaining a patent does not inevitably lead to commercial success. Most ideas don’t meet the market need for one reason or another. Those that meet the market need have enormous public benefit. What inventors do with the wealth they receive is not the province of the patent laws. America long ago figured out how to tap into the power of intellectual property rights to raise the standard of living of its citizens. IP owners need to speak out and make the case that strong intellectual property rights help people who create and help their customers. It is those who oppose effective IP rights who want a free ride.
These are my views about IP rights. In coming weeks we will post views of other members of the IPO Board of Directors on this subject.
Marc S. Adler