The Importance of Intellectual Property

The Importance of Intellectual Property

Today, when we hear the words "intellectual property," yawn-inducing college courses may be the first images that come to mind. But what about the skaters?

While it may be a rarity to see "intellectual property" and "skaters" in the same paragraph, intellectual-property rights -- patents, copyrights, and especially trademarks -- are as important to the sports industry as they are to any other.

Intellectual property is not an abstract topic confined to the realm of intellectuals. IP rights are central to the viability of many small and medium-sized businesses, such as my own. At Osiris, we have worked hard to make our footwear a staple in the skating and action-sports communities, and our brand and its reputation are critical to our success. Our trademark and designs are foundational to our business, and the same is true for countless other companies across dozens of industry sectors.

We've spent many years working to create a trusted brand identity. This process has been rewarding, but it's not without its challenges -- especially as we have expanded our reach beyond the United States.

We believe that our company of 20 employees has only begun to make its global footprint. As we continue to grow internationally, safeguarding our intellectual property becomes ever more important.

The challenges of doing so have become all too clear. They are especially felt in places where intellectual-property protection and enforcement is lacking. Russia, for example, was one of our top markets in Europe at one point, but our sales have diminished as counterfeiting has crowded out sales of our legitimate products over the last few years.

Unfortunately, the sale of counterfeit goods is not limited to rogue international markets. Footwear is one of the top counterfeited products sold in the U.S., as evidenced by the staggering $103 million in knockoff shoes seized by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement last year alone. The work done by enforcement professionals is incredibly important to those of us in innovative and creative industries of all shapes and sizes.

To export our products to foreign markets, to remain successful domestically, and to grow our business and create jobs, Osiris and many other companies like it depend on effective IP protections. This is the message that Osiris -- along with innovative companies from other industries such as Blue Sky Studios and Aventyn, Inc. -- will take to Washington tomorrow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's inaugural Global Intellectual Property Summit.

Our companies represent just a few of the 40 million jobs that, according to a Department of Commerce study, are supported by IP-intensive industries. The same study determined that our trademarks, copyrights, and patents are also driving $5 trillion in annual GDP and 60 percent of total U.S. merchandise exports.

America -- our national brand -- has a reputation around the world as an engine of entrepreneurialism and innovation. Intellectual-property rights afford individuals and companies like Osiris the chance to achieve the very same goal, and they must be protected.

Tony Chen is president and CEO of Osiris Shoes.

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