11/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Innovation Is Essential to Economic Growth

Given the urgent challenges confronting the American economy, why do I want to devote today's column to protecting intellectual property (IP) and preventing IP theft, counterfeiting, and piracy? Because America's ability to compete in the global economy and create 21st century jobs for our children and grandchildren depend on our ability to lead the world in innovation. And the key to innovation is intellectual property.

A culture of innovation and respect for IP rights have long been a source of America's competitive advantage. In 2006, the United States led the world in global patent filings, accounting for more than one-third of the total. This was spurred by industry investing more than $223 billion in research and development. America's IP-intensive industries have created 18 million jobs for U.S. workers--jobs that usually pay better and are expected to grow faster over the next decade than the national average. Staying on the cutting edge of innovation means not only growth and jobs, but also the potential to find cures for deadly diseases, sources of clean energy, and other products and services yet to be dreamed of.

America's innovation advantage will be challenged as emerging economies--such as China, India, and Russia--learn that innovation and IP rights are fundamental to economic growth. As government and the private sector in these countries begin to invest in innovation, the United States must do more to retain our position as the world's idea factory. We must also address the concerted effort by some governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and activists that seek to weaken IP rights around the world. For example, NGOs have tried to hijack the World Health Organization in order to undermine respect for pharmaceutical patents. This jeopardizes American jobs as well as the possibility of finding the next wonder drug.

Congress recently took a step to address this threat by passing the PRO-IP Act of 2008. This important legislation will strengthen civil and criminal IP laws, increase law enforcement resources at the federal and state levels, and create an intellectual property enforcement coordinator in the White House.

America's success in the 21st century economy will be inextricably linked to our ability to innovate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its Global Intellectual Property Center are leading the fight to ensure that IP and innovation are respected around the world. To learn more about our efforts to grow the economy, create good-paying American jobs, and solve global challenges through innovation, visit