NAM: U.S. Must Step Up Efforts to Protect Innovation as “Lifeblood” of Manufacturing

Manufacturers large and small are facing growing threats around the world to their intellectual property (IP) and need stronger, smarter U.S. government actions to protect it. Speaking today to an interagency U.S. government panel focused on global IP challenges, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) stressed that IP remains the lifeblood for American manufacturers and is fundamental to U.S. manufacturing, economic growth and high-paying, high-skill jobs.

Today’s public hearing was convened by the Special 301 subcommittee as part of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) formal process for drafting its Special 301 report. The hearing follows the NAM’s February 6 detailed written submission that highlighted challenges facing manufacturers in nearly 50 countries around the world. The USTR’s final report, slated for release next month, will identify actions taken by other countries that deny adequate and effective IP protection and enforcement. Notably, the report classifies countries into different categories based on the level of U.S. concern with their IP practices, triggering follow-up dialogue and action with specific countries.

In a statement today, NAM Director of International Business Policy Ryan Ong stated, “Innovation and intellectual property (IP) are crucial to that [U.S. economic] success, and the foundation of a globally competitive manufacturing base… These strong [IP] protections are critical for manufacturers of all sizes, but particularly for small and medium-sized manufacturers, for whom the cost and complexity of defending their IP rights around the world can be prohibitively high.”

“Unsurprisingly, manufacturers face challenges in foreign markets from governments that flout international rules and restrict effective protection and enforcement for U.S. IP through their policies and activities,” Ong added. He highlighted specific cross-cutting issues impacting manufacturers around the world, including:

  • Increasing attempts to weaken the global IP framework through specific activities and initiatives in international organizations and forums;
  • New threats from countries seeking to undermine patent protections that support strong U.S. exports of innovative products;
  • Growing infringement of trade secrets and business confidential information, caused by weak trade secrets regimes and increasingly sophisticated infringers using both physical and electronic means; and
  • Growing counterfeiting and piracy in markets around the world.

Ong called upon the U.S. government to “make strategic use of all available options to promote and protect innovative American manufacturing.” These options must include strong, enforceable IP protections in trade negotiations, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other bilateral dialogues. The United States must make strategic, results-oriented use of domestic tools, such as Special 301 and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act as well as World Trade Organization enforcement proceedings. Moreover, U.S. government agencies must also promote a pro-IP message in regional and multilateral forums, actively engage with like-minded allies and international platforms and operate creative training programs with foreign governments to cultivate other pro-IP voices.

Given the strategic importance on strong IP protections voiced by President Donald Trump and members of his administration, manufacturers across the country call on the U.S. government to promote strong IP protections. Our manufacturing competitiveness depends on efforts by the U.S. government and the industry to use all available tools to open new markets and break down barriers, thus growing high-paying jobs in innovative manufacturing that we all want to see.

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