Innovation plays a material role in the U.S. economy. In fact, the direct and indirect impacts of innovation account for more than 40% of U.S. economic growth and employment. However, without intellectual property (IP), innovation may not reach its economic potential. IP protects innovation and drives a significant portion of the market value of companies. It comes in the form of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.
The value placed on IP, especially patents, continues to rise. In fact, the patent landscape may reach worldwide licensing revenue of $500 billion by 2015 according to Ernst & Young. And as headlines show, companies continue to apply for and acquire patents to build portfolios for defense measures and to increase market value. Despite the continued interest in patents, the United States faces major competition with foreign countries. In 2013, Japan and Taiwan ranked first, third, and fourth for top geographic grants. This is a significant indicator that the United States may be at risk in the innovation landscape.
A part of the issue may stem from the fact that much of the public does not understand what IP is, what it does, and how important it is. This is not great news for up and coming entrepreneurs and innovators. It’s really no wonder since it is generally not taught in schools. IP strategist Ben Goodger reports that few business schools and universities teach courses focused on the importance of IP as a crucial economic and financial asset. Therefore, many people simply stumble through the nuances of IP. This is not ideal as the lack of IP can make the difference between success and failure.
Therefore, the question arises as to when IP should be introduced. Today, plenty of adults do not understand IP. Perhaps IP should be taught at the grade school level. At least one organization focused on young children finds value in IP education. In collaboration with the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Education Foundation and the USPTO, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital now offers an intellectual property patch. In an effort to encourage girls to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, the organization offers an IP patch to familiarize scouts with the patent process and innovation.
By introducing IP value at a young age, we can better prepare our children about the business world. These children continue to face a technologically advanced society, which makes copyright infringement and trade secret theft much easier. However, some of these offenses stem from lack of knowledge. Many people simply do not realize they are infringing on copyrighted work. Educating the public about IP can only result in good things, increasing our chances of introducing new inventions, reducing copyright infringement, stifling trade secret theft, and getting the most value from all forms of IP.