The U.S. Intellectual Property Rights Attaché Program has had significant success and holds immense promise in helping to enhance IP protection abroad for U.S. interests. This international focus is imperative, given that that more than 60% of U.S. merchandise exports are from IP-intensive industries.1 IP Attachés located in America’s most important trading markets are crucial for the continued vitality of the U.S. economy and to preserve America’s global competitive advantage.
For example, BIO has worked with IP Attachés to organize roundtable discussions and other meetings with officials and examiners in foreign patent offices, during which our member company IP experts can educate on biotechnology patenting and can raise general technical or policy challenges in securing sufficient IP protection for biotechnology-related inventions in those countries. Such opportunities are incredibly valuable in fostering greater understanding and awareness amongst both parties.
While the IP Attaché Program has been beneficial to date, several enhancements are necessary for the program to fully achieve its critical mission. First, more resources are needed to hire additional IP Attachés to serve in key export markets around the world. Such an expansion would serve as a powerful signal to these foreign nations that the United States government considers protecting the intellectual property and economic interests of American inventors a major economic priority.
Second, the U.S. government needs to broaden its international IP focus from “enforcement” to include the scope of current and future protection. Put more simply, patent infringement and “knock offs” can become problems only if American inventions are granted patents by these countries in the first instance. Protecting U.S. technology in its early stages will help to ensure that Americans can reap the rewards of their massive investments in research and development. Furthermore, plants and seeds are often denied patent protection by statute in many foreign countries and the Plant Variety Protection laws are often adverse to innovators. There is a critical need for broadening the scope of patent protection in many foreign countries where BIO member products are not patent eligible, to expand U.S. market access and avoid the legal piracy created when products are not patent eligible. The U.S. IP Attachés should be on the front lines advocating with our trading partners that America’s current and future economic interests should be more greatly protected.
Finally, the IP Attaché Program would benefit from greater coordination with the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s other international IP programs and offices, consistent with this agency’s stated mission of “… guiding domestic and international intellectual property policy, and delivering intellectual property information and education worldwide.”