Raising the Level of Knowledge on IP Issues

Mike Waring

AUTM Advocacy and Alliances Coordinator

Intellectual property topics such as patents, copyright and trademarks are not burning issues for most Americans. Yet understanding their importance is crucial to the long-term health of our nation and our economy.
The United States Intellectual Property Alliance (USIPA) recently shared data revealing most Americans know little to nothing about intellectual property.
In the survey, most of the respondents had heard about patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets, yet when asked to give examples of the kind of protections the current law provides, 70% of them could not. 
While knowledge of the IP system was limited, more than half of those surveyed had positive or mostly positive views of the value IP brings to society. Moreover, 25% of them said they knew someone who had a copyright or patent, and most also felt that they themselves would be able to get IP protection for something they themselves created. 
Although views of patents were generally favorable, the respondents did raise concerns that patents for things like COVID vaccine should not be patentable, suggesting they felt patents might inhibit the distribution or creation of vaccines needed to fight pandemics.
The results of the survey solidify the need for groups like the USIPA, as their goals are to educate the American people about IP. By working to create state or regional alliances across the nation, USIPA hopes to generate press coverage, better education and other discussions that will help educate the public about why IP is so important and why it needs to be protected. Over time, it is hoped that such efforts will then resonate broadly with policymakers and the public as they determine future laws and regulations that impact IP.
AUTM has known for years that helping people understand the technology transfer process can pay dividends.  This survey reinforces the need for all of us to take the time to explain what we do on our campuses as often as we can.  Through this repetition, we can increase understanding and support for the work you and your colleagues do.