Protecting Ideas Is Critical for Vermont's Economy

If you created a new product, you wouldn't want someone to steal your idea, right? Intellectual property rights - copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets - may sound like esoteric legal terms, but they have become a critical issue for Vermont and its growing creative economy.

This paper recently published an editorial on "fair use" -the circumstances under which copyrighted works can be legitimately duplicated without permission from, or compensation to, their creator. Intellectual property issues are a timely subject, with Congress reviewing our nation's copyright laws and addressing patent litigation reform.

So why are intellectual property rights important to Vermonters? Technology entrepreneurs and knowledge-based businesses are driving Vermont's economy. In the last ten years, the state's tech and creative economy has grown exponentially. There were 520 start-up businesses per 100,000 adults in 2012 according to CNNMoney, which has ranked Vermont among the most entrepreneurial, innovative and inventive states in the country. More start-up companies mean more jobs, a stronger revenue base, and thriving communities.

There were 3.5 patents per thousand residents filed in Vermont in 2011.

Recognizing the importance of safeguarding the Vermont businesses that are leading this innovation, Vermont became the first state in the country to enact a law that protect businesses from "patent trolls"- abusive patent infringement lawsuits. Other states are now following Vermont's lead and considering similar legislation.

More important work on encouraging knowledge-based businesses to locate and grow here continues this legislative session.

Without these intellectual property protections, we risk thwarting the innovation and creativity that is pushing Vermont's economy forward. We need more business that risk investing their time, savings and resources to turn an innovative idea into a product that we can all use.

Intellectual property theft costs the U. S. economy at least $250 billion per year. Unfortunately, it is a real and growing problem for Vermont businesses that are innovators in biotech, bioscience and technology. The same Internet that affords a business in Manchester access to consumers across the globe also allows counterfeiters to peddle fake versions of their products. This harms the business that creates the product, and the larger economy.

The authorities charged with enforcing intellectual property rights - agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the federal level and Attorney General Sorrell at the state level - must receive the support and resources they need to effectively safeguard Vermont's innovative businesses.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups businesses are the cornerstone of our economy.

They create jobs, inspire more business development, and contribute to the innovative state that we are today. It is imperative that we recognize and protect the ideas and products that these innovative Vermonters create so we can continue to grow Vermont's economy.

Betsy Bishop is the President of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce


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