Intellectual property is very important as American business continues to expand and develops. Businesses are now attempting to penetrate foreign markets which are unique in their laws, customers and beliefs. International trade is no different in this regard as business attempts to capitalize on a burgeoning middle class in China. As such, it is important for business to protect the intellectual capital that made their operations thrive and flourish. Too many individuals are now copying or directly replicating American brands in an attempt to garner profits. Brands are in many instances, the most important aspect of an American business. By pilfering or using very similar brands, emerging markets are literally stealing profits that are earned by American business. This is an international trade issue as businesses must now attempt to enforce higher standards of transparency in regards to intellectually capital. Businesses must do so without destroying the international relationships between Asian consumers and their American counterparts. It is the nature of capitalism to copy or mimic successful products. It is when companies outright copy a trademark or patented process that complications arise. Intellectual property is no different in this regard. China specifically, has been notorious for infringing on American companies intellectual capital. This ultimately hinders international trade which discourages innovation among American businesses. Furthermore, international trade is hindered as businesses may be reluctant to expand in areas with high degrees of copyright and intellectual rights infringement.
To begin, WIPO defines refers to counterfeiting as "infringement on trademarks," and piracy as "infringement on copyright or related acts (Jacobson, 2008)." 5 to 7% of all world trade is comprised of piracy and counterfeiting. Piracy rates within China were at an alarming 92% ( Cheng, 2011).Nearly 1.3 Billion people now live in China, of which approximately 90% of them pirate software or commit other versions of cybercrime against intellectual property. The likelihood of actually getting caught for this offense is unlikely due in part to the sheer volume of citizens within the country. Would it be practical or even worthwhile to catch every small business counterfeiter within China? If so, what is to prevent another person from committing the same offense? With the ease of access to technology, I believe that literally any one of the 1.3 billion citizens of China is liable to commit an intellectual property crime even if other counterfeiters are indeed caught. This again, poses a significant threat to the United States business and intellectual property in general. This is a particular problem for international trade because it discourages innovation in American intellectual capital. What incentive do American businesses have to develop intellectual capital if China is simply going to copy it later on with no form of reprimand? This causes issues in valuation as well. Companies will not pay a premium for intellectual capital if it will easily be copied by international competitors. This again discourages innovation as the profit incentive is greatly diminished.
America is characterized by its emphasis on capitalism, international trade and its subsequent benefits to society. International trade and the production of innovative goods and services in particular, have provided a solid foundation for American prosperity for centuries. American capital markets are among the best in the world which provides capital to flourishing businesses. Businesses however need to be protected from the influences of competitors, especially those of foreign origins. It is the nature of international trade to compete and attempt to erode competitor market share. It is through this behavior the goods and services are innovated. This behavior also creates cheaper goods and services which again benefits society at large. In some instances however, creativity must be protected within the context of capitalism and international trade. Intellectual property is one such aspect that should be protected from the influences of competitor mimicking. If a company or individual created a unique structure or idea, competitors should not be able to steal, mimic or directly copy that particular concept. A logo is symbol of a brand and the values in which that brand evokes within the consumers mind. Therefore, it should belong to one individual company. Could you imagine if every fast food chain copied McDonald's logo for there own personal use? It would create havoc in both the consumer and business world (Oley, 2010). For one, commodity type businesses would be unable to differentiate themselves from competitors. Consumers looking for a particular value proposition would be unable to differentiate between companies. They instead would be forced to waste time, and energy looking at every store for the product characteristics in which the consumer is attempting to locate. This is especially true in our current technological age. Barriers to entry in many industries have been substantially reduced with the advent of the internet. Nearly anyone can now buy, sell, or even produce products over the internet.
Companies attempting to merger or acquire these internet companies also must be aware of their intellectual property and how to value it appropriately. As such, intellectual capital is very important within the context of capitalism. My aim, throughout the duration of this document is to detail the nuances of valuing intellectual capital of some methods in which not to do so.
What is traditional capital? Traditional capital is capital that is tangible. This will include items that provide direct economic benefit to the company. These items will include physical materials used in manufacturing a car, or the building used to collect inventory. These items are considered tangible as a market price can be placed directly on these items. The steel used to produce a car can be directly valued in the market place. This is unlike a logo which is intangible and cannot be accurately valued in the market. A valuation of a logo is at best, an educated guess which rarely is accurate. Traditional capital however can be quoted daily. In the event of liquidation, these tangible assets can readily be sold for cash.
What exactly is intellectual capital? Intellectual capital is defined as, "the knowledge, experience, and brainpower of employees as well as knowledge resources stored in an organization's databases, systems, processes, culture, and philosophy (Intellectual capital, 2012)." Businesses traditionally have both tangible and intangible assets. Both are needed to further company goals and objectives while driving business results. A common mistake that many companies make in regards to valuing intellectual capital is being over optimistic in their assumptions. Many companies engage in M&A activities to acquire intellectual property. This occurs quite frequently in the technological sector as many large companies purchase smaller companies with particular expertise and intellectual capital. For example, Microsoft purchased Skype for $8.5 Billion (Shankland, 2011). Skype has tangible assets well below this figure. The remaining money is characterized as "Goodwill" which is the intellectual capital that Skype provides. In fact, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted saying, "Skype is a phenomenal product and brand that is loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world," How much does brand loyalty of hundreds of millions of people around the world cost? Are these tangible assets? The answer is that it is difficult to value those customers in regards to future profitability towards Microsoft. Further compounding the issue is that Microsoft could easily have overpaid for this intellectual capital.If this acquisition will be successful will remain to be determined for many years. However, one reason it may not be successful is that Microsoft simply overpaid for intellectual assets that were grossly overvalued.
China has done much on paper to counteract the pervasiveness of piracy of American goods and services within its borders. However, it has done little in regards to actually implementation of these procedures. The 1990 copyright law that China enacted seemed great in concept but difficult in terms of execution. The law provided for the protection of authors of scientific and artistic works. It also provided a means to disseminate this information for the benefit of society (Cheng 2009). Again the law seems great in concept; however upon further review of the laws impact on piracy levels within China reveals it did nothing to reverse the alarming trend of piracy of American goods and services. This ultimately harms trade relations between the United States and China, as businesses are reluctant to do businesses with unethical entities. This is particular true for American companies that rely heavily on their brand image and the quality it represents. For example, Lamborghini will be very reluctant to do business in China due in part to its extreme image of prestige among the companies general consumer. The same can be true for American luxury brands as well. As mentioned earlier, the law was enacted in 1990, however in 2003 piracy rates within China were at an alarming 92% (Orley, 2010). In 2004 China enacted the "Several Issues of Concrete Application of Laws in Handling Criminal Cases of Infringing Intellectual Property." This law effectively lowered the threshold for what constitutes piracy will enhancing the overall punishments. China has gone so far as…