Innovation Is More Important Than Ownership

The economy of the United States has long been driven by the innovation of new technologies.  Great inventions beget great companies.  Recent news has highlighted the issues of IP theft from the U.S. by China; as per usual, this is an issue already prevalent at FiRe.  In an interview by Jim Louderback, General Manager of Discovery Digital Networks, Gary Shapiro, the President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, explained the ways in which innovation can outpace the rate of theft, leaving stealing nations perpetually on the heels of American industry.

Shapiro made it clear that our economy is being hurt by theft.  While notable entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk of SpaceX have publicly questioned the value of patents in the face of rampant IP theft, Shapiro was not willing to throw in the towel on claims of ownership yet.  Notably, Shapiro also commented that “I have yet to meet anybody who does business with China who doesn’t feel like they’re being ripped off.”

However, Shapiro encouraged us as well to examine the many advantages American innovaters still have over those who would steal their technology.  While China turns out many more Ph.Ds, they “aren’t real” and cannot compare to the quality of higher education in this country.  Our students are taught to ask questions, to find out the why and why not of an issue, Shapiro points out, which encourages innovation.  While the Chinese government promotes a single, uniform opinion held by all, “here, we do a good job of disagreeing.”

Shapiro concluded that U.S. advances in fields like nanotechnology, robotics, driverless vehicles, and many other categories would allow us to continue pushing forward despite the sea-anchor of IP theft on our economy.  Setting a potently optimistic tone, Shapiro commented “Yes it is bad what they do, it is immoral […] but having said that, we are innovative.”  This is an important distinction, and Shapiro is “not pessimistic about where we are going with [that] innovation.”