Intellectual property a valuable resource for Nevada

More than 150,000 people gathered in Las Vegas last month for a sneak peak at the ideas that will define our future. For nearly half a century, the International Consumer Electronics Show has been a launching pad for revolutionary products ranging from the VCR to Google Glass and everything in between.

This outstanding event is also a reminder of how groundbreaking inventions create prosperity, drive our economy and generate jobs. In Nevada alone, the intellectual property (IP) of scientists, inventors, business owners and artists supports more than 231,000 jobs — one in five statewide.

In order to ensure that our state continues to benefit from the innovative ideas of our most creative residents, we must continue to protect and enforce IP rights.

Nevada is a state rich in natural resources that create jobs and provide an enviable quality of life. But another resource that will have a major impact on our economic future is the intellectual property of Nevada’s entrepreneurs and inventors.

Today, Nevada is home to visionary firms such as online retailer Zappos, travel website Expedia and technology ecosystem Switch Communications.

Nevada’s appeal to ideas-driven companies, both large and small, shouldn’t be surprising. According to the Tax Foundation’s 2014 rankings, our state has the third-best business tax climate in the nation. That’s phenomenal.

At the same time, programs such as Battle Born Growth Escalator, a state-run venture capital fund, continue to support Nevada companies in their early stages.

Such innovation-friendly policies have paid off. IP-intensive businesses generate more than $27 billion in economic output each year for Nevada. Currently, IP is responsible for more than 63 percent of Nevada’s roughly $8 billion in annual exports.

A number of recent developments have made it clear that IP will continue to play a central role in Nevada’s economy.

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, for instance, has committed $350 million to the Downtown Project, an ambitious plan to turn Las Vegas’ Fremont East neighborhood into a magnet for artists and entrepreneurs by transforming the area into a dense, walkable urban center.

Technology giant Apple is in the process of building a major facility just outside Reno. And late last month, the Federal Aviation Administration chose Nevada’s researchers, universities and businesses to help develop the next generation of unmanned aerial drones.

As our economy comes to rely more on the ideas of Nevada’s scientists, artists and entrepreneurs, the task of protecting those ideas from theft will take on new importance. State and federal officials are working hard to enforce IP laws. And the private sector has become more proactive about protecting its intellectual property.

But unfortunately, IP theft continues to grow. Today, counterfeiters don’t just sell knock-off handbags — they’re trafficking everything from fake medicines to tires to extension cords. Such shoddy goods don’t just endanger the economic livelihoods of the creators of the genuine article — they can also put consumers in jeopardy.

Nevada’s leaders can continue to help fight this problem by assisting with the enforcement of patents, trademarks and copyrights that recognize the right of innovators to benefit from their creations.

In an era when a line of computer code or an idea for a website can be worth billions of dollars, we must prosecute intellectual property theft just like theft of any other sort. Safeguarding IP is more than just a matter of fairness. Efforts to secure the rights of creators strengthen the incentive for innovation. In doing so, IP protections help ensure a steady flow of newer, better products and ideas — the very products and ideas that reinforce and support economic growth and job creation here in Nevada.

Nevada has emerged as a hotbed for the kind of ingenuity that’s at the foundation of America’s knowledge economy. In order to maintain the strides our state has made in this industry, we must continue to protect the intellectual property of Nevadans.

Brian Krolicki is lieutenant governor of Nevada.