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It’s never been more important for Americans to stay connected, informed, and entertained. It’s easy to feel isolated in these times of stay-at-home orders and social distancing as we try to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Fortunately, as more and more people are watching movies and doing their work from home, America’s networks have been able to support the unprecedented increase in users and meet their demand for entertainment. But, if American businesses are going to continue keeping us informed, connected, and entertained during these challenging times and beyond, we need to start better protecting our intellectual property (IP).
In April, formal stay-at-home measures were issued across 41 states and the District of Columbia. That means at least 311 million people across the country were asked to not go to work, school, or even leave the house unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Naturally, people have been binging TV shows, movies and putting more thought into those business ideas that they never had time for. This is the type of behavior – mostly the business aspect, although binging is never a bad thing either – that we need to encourage.
Mark Cuban, one of America’s top entrepreneurs and investors, recently tweeted, “When we look back in five years, we are going to realize that there were 10 to 20 amazing companies that were started that changed the world and led us to a brighter future. Ask yourself: ‘Why Not Me’ or ‘Why Not Us’. Now is your time. The world is waiting.”
Hopefully, he’s right, but we need to recognize that it’s not enough to just encourage America’s inventors – it’s equally important that we protect them too.
According to a 2017 report, Chinese IP theft has cost the U.S. between $225 and $600 billion a year. There’s one fundamental reason why we haven’t been able to stop this theft – our reliance on China.
America can only enact strong IP rights systems when our production capabilities can match our ability to innovate. While the ideas of the future may be coming from right here at home, we can’t truly gain independence from China until we can make those ideas a reality right here at home as well.
To put it simply, we need to invest more in American innovation – that means investing more in American production too. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and perhaps the world’s greatest innovator, is the perfect example of why American manufacturing is worth investing in.
In 2016, Musk opened his Tesla Gigafactory, which supplies the battery packs for its electric vehicles, in the Nevada desert. This means that Tesla was not affected when the initial outbreak in China halted the world’s supply chain, and, perhaps more importantly, that Musk is free of Chinese reliance. Musk’s Silicon Valley peers should wake up, take note, and follow his precedent.
Since 2001, California has lost more than half a million jobs to China according to a 2018 report. That’s more than any other state.
Overall, the U.S. has lost 3.4 million manufacturing jobs to China. These losses are fueled by Silicon Valley outsourcing manufacturing jobs to China, where production is considerably cheaper. COVID-19’s economic fallout is shining a light on exactly how dangerous it is to so heavily rely on China, as well as how necessary it is to invest in American production and innovation.
If we’re able to reform our current system, encouraging innovation here at home and achieving independence from China, America has the potential to save the hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs lost to Chinese IP theft – revenue and jobs that America can appreciate now more than ever.
As we sit at home, rewatching “Avengers: Endgame,” although maybe I’m just speaking for myself, and keeping up to date on the world around us, it’s important to appreciate the American innovators that make it possible for us to stay connected in our isolation. But, as we dust off old ideas and think of ways to expand our current horizons, we also need to recognize the work that remains to be done on the system meant to encourage our own, American innovation.
Arvin Patel is Chief Intellectual Property Officer and EVP at TiVo.