Patent Office stresses intellectual property protection methods

08/17/07 10:09AM By Ross Sneyd
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(Host) Companies large and small face a growing threat that their products and services could be pirated or counterfeited.
But the U.S. Patent Office says there are ways to protect intellectual property rights and preserve good jobs.

As VPR's Ross Sneyd reports, more than 200 Vermont businesses will be at a conference today to learn how.

(Sneyd) Most Vermont employers fall under the government's definition of a small business - that's up to 50 workers.

People who run those companies are generally busy trying to make a living and can't spend time worrying about their intellectual property.

Intellectual property could be the product a company makes. It could also be a specialty food company's secret recipe. Or it could be a specialized computer program.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office says all companies need to pay attention because it's vital to national economic security.

(Peterlin) "Intellectual property is actually what's fueling the American economy right now. American IP is estimated to be worth more than $5 trillion, which is about half of our own gross domestic product and greater than the GDP of any other nation in the world."

(Sneyd) Margaret Peterlin is deputy director of the patent office in Washington.

Her agency organized the conference in Burlington with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Senator Patrick Leahy.

One of their goals was to make companies aware of what their intellectual property is.

(Peterlin) "It's not just the funny fake watch that you buy on the street or the knockoff purse that you buy. This is about keeping our innovation and keeping our economy moving so that we can continue to improve our lives and the lives of others. But also so people can invest their time and energy and their own finances in their businesses and successfully pursue their business model without having somebody literally copy their Web sites, copy their labeling and completely falsify another business and produce a counterfeit product, often of lesser quality."

(Sneyd) Tom Anderson is the U.S. attorney for Vermont.

Anderson says law enforcement is trying to make sure businesses realize how much value there is in some of their intangible assets, like computers and software.

(Anderson) "Vermont is trying to develop a kind of a tech industry and sort of be on the cutting edge of the tech industry. And I think those things go hand in glove with people that would have intellectual property rights to protect."

(Sneyd) Anderson says law enforcement will investigate when a company's product is counterfeited or its original ideas are stolen.

But he says the federal government is working to make sure companies protect themselves before crimes are committed against them.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.

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