Economists have agreed that strong property rights protections are a precondition to economic growth and prosperity since the correlation was demonstrated by the seventeenth century polemicist Thomas Hobbes. In recent years, society has benefitted from an explosion in industries dependent on intellectual property (IP). Since the operative word in the phrase “intellectual property” is “property”, it is only natural that IP be afforded all of the same protections that are applied to physical property. A new Commerce Department study illustrates the importance of doing so.
In a report titled Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus, the Commerce Department notes that nearly the entire American economy either produces of uses some form of IP. The study has isolated seventy-five specific industries that are especially IP-intensive. These industries directly supported approximately twenty-seven million jobs of which an additional thirteen million jobs were dependent. These jobs accounted for more than one-fourth of the total number of jobs in the U.S. economy in 2010.
Being that the seventy-five IP-intensive industries accounted for more than one-third of total U.S. output in 2010, the report acknowledges the necessity of securing intellectual property rights. This makes innovation rewarding by allowing innovators personal benefits from their intellect much the same way that physical property rights enable property owners to exploit their resources.
The 2012 International Property Rights Index (IPRI) shows that IP protection in the United States has declined for the second consecutive year. While the U.S. has improved or stabilized its score in the other IPRI subcomponents, IP was the only area of property rights where the U.S. continued to deteriorate. As the U.S. economy continues to recover at a frustratingly slow pace, it is important for policy makers to make improved intellectual property protections a priority.