COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | MARK ELLIOT

Regional economy’s health depends on IP rights

San Diego is well-known for its ideal weather, location and culture, but this sunny and scenic California city has more to offer. San Diego features a burgeoning business landscape ripe with diverse, innovation-minded entrepreneurs and researchers from around the world. As a result, it is a hub for a robust network of industries ranging from leading biotechnology firms to prominent entertainment companies.

To continue attracting top entrepreneurs and researchers to San Diego, it is vitally important to protect the source of its entrepreneurial culture, and the mechanism that provides the assurance of a return on innovative investments: intellectual property (IP) rights.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study found that 7.4 million of California’s private sector jobs are supported by industries that rely on the copyrights, patents and trademarks that belong to Californians. This economic activity accounts for over half of California’s gross state product, and a staggering 76 percent of state exports.

The tradition of innovation in San Diego is anchored by IP-driven research institutes, biotechnology centers and major players from the health care, food, entertainment and defense industries. These businesses are leaders in technological and creative advancements, and attract some of the nation’s brightest minds to Southern California. IP rights fuel the creative genius of San Diego’s citizens and draw businesses from around the world to invest in the ideas born in this area.

Patent activity in the San Diego region continues to flourish, with the number of patents granted in the region increasing steadily since the second quarter of 2011. Today, southern California has the highest patents per capita density and is ranked the 5th county in the state for the number of patents granted. Connect, Biocom, EvoNexus and other organizations have helped to make this possible and continue to serve as tremendous advocates for innovation and entrepreneurship in our region.

Protecting and promoting intellectual property is essential to keeping our economic momentum going. Regardless of type, size or structure, IP theft has the power to harm any business. The growth of cyberespionage and counterfeiting has made the theft of trade secrets — as well as patent, trademark and copyright infringement — increasingly common. An estimated $650 billion is lost every year to counterfeited and pirated goods worldwide, making it imperative that we support agencies such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in their efforts to stop this trend.

IP theft not only harms our economy but also has the potential to harm consumers. IP thieves, both domestic and international, abuse trusted name brands to sell potentially dangerous fakes. These fakes range from counterfeit airbags that could fail to deploy to fake cancer medicines that lack necessary lifesaving active ingredients.

Only by equipping companies and industries with the knowledge and tools to identify and stop the harmful effects of IP theft can this epidemic be stopped. The protection of IP rights provides an incentive for entrepreneurs and researchers to continue to push the limits of human ingenuity to develop new products that improve our lives.

To protect the economic vitality and longstanding tradition of innovation and economic diversity in San Diego, it is essential that the IP rights of San Diego’s businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers be protected.

Mark Elliot is executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center.

Jerry Sanders is the president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and served as mayor of San Diego from 2005 to 2012.

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