World IP Day, April 26 this year, marks an apt time to consider the ways intellectual property makes our lives better.
IP—patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets—secures private property rights in one’s inventions and other creative output.
IP has spurred innovation, competition and the U.S. economy. It’s the lifeblood of many industries—producing many years of research and development, leading to all forms of innovation.
For example, thanks to IP, we enjoy electrification in our homes and businesses. Associated foundational inventions power our modern conveniences. IP lies at the center of wireless technology, computer-implemented functionality such as artificial intelligence, commercial sectors such as movies, music and publications, as well as R&D-centric medical devices and biopharmaceuticals.
Like a deed to land, patents and copyrights serve as titles on newly created property. Without clear title and enforceable ownership rights, few would make improvements on property.
“In a significant number of industries, secure patent protection has enabled the entry of entrepreneurial innovators backed by outside risk capital—a potent combination that can challenge existing technological paradigms, threaten market leaders, and drive high-intensity innovation ecosystems,” writes University of Southern California law professor Jonathan Barnett.
An Example of IP’s Blessings
How does this play out? As one example, take biopharma.
The industry marshaled all hands on deck, developed, produced and began distributing sophisticated, novel COVID-19 vaccines in less than one year. COVID medicines and tests are widely deployed, with more than 20 billion COVID vaccine doses available this year and new medicines on the way. IP made such remarkable progress possible.
Meanwhile, biopharma innovators remain hard at work addressing antimicrobial resistance with new types of antibiotics. They’re hard at work on drugs to treat Lou Gehrig’s and other diseases and have created hepatitis C cures. Even cures for such diseases as HIV and cancer are budding, thanks to gene therapy.
Biopharma’s R&D/advanced manufacturing ecosystem and the resulting innovation are fueled by IP and partnerships. These result from sound tech transfer policies in place for decades.
Anti-IP types led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Lloyd Doggett seek to hijack the Bayh-Dole Act’s narrow march-in authority. This tech transfer law’s march-in isn’t authorized for product price. Abusing march-in threatens Bayh-Dole’s decentralized technology transfer and commercialization decisions for inventions from federal basic research grants. Such misuse would render IP rights uncertain and, therefore, the IP unattractive to investors.
It’s crucial to realize that IP-backed, democratized tech transfer activity fuels U.S. competitiveness and jobs. Threats of misapplied march-in put these benefits, along with resulting products and practical applications, at risk.
The biopharma sector outperforms many other industries economically. Biopharma firms provide more than 900,000 U.S. jobs and support another 3.5 million domestic jobs. The more than 1,500 pharmaceutical facilities are located in 47 states.
Their workers average more than $145,000 in salary and benefits. Worker productivity exceeds the average worker by three and a half times. Biopharma’s total share of U.S. economic output at 3.7 percent surpasses $1.4 trillion and accounts for 3.4 percent of GDP.
In short, IP-reliant R&D rocks—technologically, economically, across society. Still, some people can’t see the IP forest for the trees of their envy, short-sightedness or biases.
Considering IP’s critical role in incentivizing innovation, you realize just how profound is IP’s contribution to human progress, health and happiness. World IP Day is a good time to remember the countless, tremendous contributions IP has made to improving the human condition.