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President-elect Trump has talked a lot about protecting citizens. One place he should start is by protecting our innovators.

The United States is an innovative country where it’s assumed that anyone can build the next best mousetrap, manufacturing technique or ground-breaking medical device. Other countries, however, understand the economic strength that innovation provides an economy. They’re starting to compete, but they’re making up their own rules. Unsurprisingly, those rules aren’t intended to protect U.S. innovators. We need to take back control, and that should start by focusing on what made America great in the past and who can “make America great again.”

The U.S. economy is based on several pillars that have enabled the economic ecosystem that’s made us the best in the world. Strong property rights, strong rule of law and a commitment to regulatory restraint have helped the economy flourish in ways other countries can only imagine. These are principles that even objectivists in the mold of Ayn Rand can get behind.

Over the last several years, however, regulatory restraint has been fading, the rule of law seems more and more corrupted, and property rights are being eroded faster than ever.

Intellectual property is one of the founding principles that our Founders included in the Constitution, “To promote the progress of science and useful arts.” Before U.S. independence, the British king awarded writs of ownership to dukes, lords and other loyalists instead of the actual inventor.

The Founding Fathers understood that innovation needed to be protected and awarded. This single pillar might have done more than any other to help establish U.S. economic dominance in the world — up until now.

As the economy becomes a global marketplace, foreign countries are beginning to fully understand the value of intellectual property. As a part of this recognition, they are beginning to explore how much leverage they can exert over their own growth as well as outside competitors. Unfortunately, while this awakening is happening outside of our own borders, the U.S. has taken a path that has weakened patent rights in the last 5 years.

With more than 100 competition agencies worldwide (foreign government equivalents to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission), there is an intellectual property war between China, Taiwan, South Korea and the U.S. over the future of the digital economy. This is a fight the U.S. is going to have a hard time winning.

For instance, in some of the countries, like South Korea, the legal system is so different that there’s nothing that even resembles due process. In these countries, a charge is brought up in secret and the judge renders a decision. That means that if a charge is brought up against a U.S. company, they might not even have a chance to know what they are being accused of until a judgement is rendered.

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This means that the South Korean competition agency, the Korea Fair Trade Commission, has an inordinate amount of power over U.S. companies.

Patent rights are no longer full property rights. They are subject to more and more pricing regulations, and the debate about further weakening patent rights hasn’t stopped yet with more pricing regulations being proposed around standard-essential patents. The U.S. FTC doesn’t attack foreign companies to protect U.S. companies, and they shouldn’t. But other competition agencies around the world are beginning to use this tactic, and they shouldn’t.

Both the Trump administration and Congress need to help defend intellectual property instead of further weakening it through legislation or allowing aggressive moves by foreign competition agencies. As the economy becomes more and more globalized, intellectual property rights will continue to play a large role in the growth of the economy.

We need to defend those rights today by protecting intellectual property. The economic growth that our inventions have provided our country are truly a testament to our forward-looking Founding Fathers, and our innovations are likely to continue driving our economy into the future. However, we need to defend intellectual property today, as fully as intellectual property helped us yesterday.

Charles Sauer is a contributer to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of the Market Institute and previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor and for an academic think tank. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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