WIPP: Keep Your Guard Up

Women Impacting Public Policy: Keep Your Guard Up
July 26, 2013
By Roz Klann

As more women-owned businesses expand into the global marketplace and focus on exporting as a growth opportunity, a critical issue is often overlooked – the role of intellectual property (IP). IP is the set of laws, rules and restrictions that “your stuff” – the goods and services you sell – actually your stuff. The reality is, though, we as small business owners don’t know enough about these protections. And they are often the only things protecting our products beyond our borders.
According to the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), only 15% of small businesses with international sales know that a U.S. trademark only provides protection within the United States. No protection, no profits – which hurts everyone. The theft of American IP costs the U.S. economy $300 billion a year, or roughly 2.1 million jobs. Such sobering statistics underscore why programs like WIPP’s ExportNOW are vital to the women’s business community. By offering educational workshops, mentoring, and strategy development, WIPP ensures women entrepreneurs have the knowledge and resources needed to succeed and protect their businesses overseas.
While understanding the link between IP protection and exporting is simple, navigating the tangle of trade agreements and variations country to country is a real challenge–and an even greater concern. Take, for example, India–a country of more than one billion consumers with which U.S. trade tops $50 billion annually. It is a place where you would think trade is vibrant and protected as a pillar of growth. But that is not the case.
A recent report by the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) on India’s IP laws warns small businesses to be cautious and proactive in protecting their IP before exporting. As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), India is obliged to maintain IP protections. Yet, India’s software piracy rate is 63% representing a commercial value of nearly $3 billion. Similarly, the U.S. music industry loses $430 million due to online and mobile theft. India finished last year in the report’s International IP index – even behind Russia and China who have notoriously poor reputations for IP protection. Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) remarked, “We are seeing a disturbing trend, where India is turning inward; in which India is directing barriers to trade and investment, and discriminatory practices.”
The business community has expressed serious concerns about patent violations, compulsory licensing, and piracy in India–discouraging American innovation overseas. India’s promising business climate and growing middle class are a great potential market for small and medium-sized businesses looking to expand, but recent policy and judicial decisions invalidating IP rights create uncertainty for foreign investment. India’s case demonstrates the negative effects of weak IP protections on businesses; however, India remains an outlier for IP systems within the international community. The global marketplace continues to offer unmatched opportunities for women owned businesses to expand and tap into new markets overseas and ExportNOW is positioned to ensure these international opportunities become entrepreneurial success stories.

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