America Needs a Chief IP Negotiator: Confirm Chris Wilson Now

“While countries continue to violate Americans’ intellectual property rights, the country is without a point-person to negotiate on workers’ and businesses’ behalf.”

Chief IP NegotiatorThe U.S. Senate might be the world’s “greatest deliberative body.” But it’s certainly not the quickest. For over a year, senators have failed to review and approve an uncontroversial nominee for a position that most Americans have never heard of—but one that’s immensely important to our economy.

In 2015, Congress passed the late Senator Orrin Hatch’s Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which created the position of Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator. Senator Hatch believed that intellectual property (IP) was so important to the U.S. economy that it deserved the focus of an ambassador-rank official charged with guaranteeing strong IP standards are upheld and enforced with global trading partners. He was right: IP-intensive industries support more than 62 million American jobs, nearly half of all U.S. employment.

A Stellar Nominee

But since it was created, this important position has inexplicably remained unfilled. No person had even been nominated for the position until President Biden nominated a stellar candidate in August of 2021. When Chris Wilson’s nomination was announced, groups from the music and movie industries to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce all enthusiastically endorsed him.

It’s easy to see why.

Wilson has worked in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for over 20 years, serving in a variety of key roles across the agency, including as Deputy Assistant USTR for Innovation and Intellectual Property, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization, and currently as Assistant USTR for South and Central Asia.

Simply put, Chris Wilson is a professional, universally well-regarded and well-liked negotiator with decades of experience. He’s a dedicated public servant with impeccable credentials who has served our country for most of his career. Despite these qualifications, his nomination remains in limbo.

Limbo Means U.S. Innovators Lose

This is a problem. Many of the most innovative companies in the United States rely on intellectual property to maintain their competitive edge and drive innovation. Companies that invest heavily in research and development to invent the latest cutting-edge technologies need IP to protect their investments. And the creative sectors of the economy, such as the music and movie industries, are driven by the trademarks and copyrights that protect artists’ work.

Without strong IP rights to protect innovators here at home, the United States risks losing millions of jobs and billions of dollars to competitors and copycats abroad. Already, many of our trading partners blatantly ignore IP protections.

We Need a Point Person

India is notorious for counterfeiters, who infringe upon American trademarks and pirate American content at alarming rates. Indonesia discriminates against American technology firms and makes it difficult to register trademarks. Mexico has made it difficult for U.S. companies to seek relief in court for intellectual property infringement, a breach of its obligations in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. And South Korea manipulates the cost of patented American pharmaceuticals despite its promise to “appropriately recognize” the value of these drugs in the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).

While countries continue to violate Americans’ intellectual property rights, the country is without a point-person to negotiate on workers’ and businesses’ behalf.

America needs a Chief IP Negotiator. And it has a superb person for the job in Chris Wilson. Please, Senators—confirm him.


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Join the Discussion

One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for Herb Glum]
    Herb Glum
    October 23, 2022 11:57 pm

    The US also needed a solution to the incredibly costly and slow alternative to patent infringement litigation that no independent inventor could afford. Some champions of those independent inventors created a new industry representing those independent inventors but the efficient infringers wanted to get rid of that industry. We ended up with the AIA, PTAB and Michelle Lee, all of which at the time sounded like it could be a workable solution. While a Chief Innovation and Intellectual Property Negotiator also sounds like a workable solution, be careful what you wish for. Nothing happens in Congress these days without meddling by big data.

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