Commission wants to minimize U.S. IP theft economic impact

As the long awaited first meeting between China’s new president Xi Jinping and U.S. president Barack Obama draws near, the problem of cyber espionage and theft of intellectual propriety originating from China is slowly moving towards the center of the stage.

Whether the issue will be discussed at all during Xi’s stay in the U.S. is yet to be seen, but the clamor surrounding it makes it likely that it will at least be mentioned.

And there’s no denying that the problem exists. According to Jon Huntsman, a former Governor of the State of Utah and a one-time U.S. Ambassador to China, “China is two-thirds of the intellectual property theft problem, and we are at a point where it is robbing us of innovation to bolster their own industry, at a cost of millions of jobs.”

Huntsman and Dennis Blair, former Director of National Intelligence and Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, co-chair the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property (the IP Commission), one of whose goals is to propose U.S. policy responses for mitigating damage and obtain greater enforcement of intellectual property rights by China and other infringers.

The IP Commission is set to publish a report on the current state of theft of American intellectual property on Thursday, and it will contain a number of measures aimed at changing the cost-benefit calculus for those who engage in it.

“We recommend immediately: denying products that contain stolen intellectual property access to the U.S. market; restricting use of the U.S. financial system to foreign companies that repeatedly steal intellectual property; and adding the correct, legal handling of intellectual property to the criteria for both investment in the United States under Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approval and for foreign companies that are listed on U.S. stock exchanges,” the two announced in an opinion piece for the Washington Post.

“In addition to these measures, which use the power of the U.S. market, we recommend reinforcing the capacity-building programs underway that strengthen the legal frameworks and practices for IP rights overseas. As these countries develop, their companies will want protection for their ideas. But the United States cannot afford to wait the many years this will take. We must help speed the process, and only when we make IP theft very costly for thieves can U.S. companies begin to realize a fair playing field.”

According to the NYT, still other measures might include allowing private businesses to retaliate (under the supervision of law enforcement) for attacks aimed at them, or the Congress imposing hefty taxes on all imported Chinese products.

How many of these recommendations can actually be carried out without stepping on many international toes remains to be debated.

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