Office Hours

Lewis Lee: why intellectual property is a key business asset

Spokane company co-founder Lewis Lee recently was quoted extensively at a CNBC blog on the fundamental importance of intellectual property in business development.

Which is exactly up Lewis Lee's alley; he co-founded immensely successul Spokane-based IP law firm Lee & Hayes, housed in downtown Spokane.

The interview, at, was nicely timed to the recent state visit by China's President Hu Jintao. It was posted with the headline: Message to CEOs: Don't Underestimate the Middle Kingdom in the Innovation Race.

Lee spends increasing amounts of time with his company's patent teams on the mainland and in Taipei. When he talks about the need for U.S. companies and global firms to deal with the growth of IP awareness in China, he makes a strong point. One quote is this one:

"However, we are seeing more and more research being located in emerging countries like India and China due to the large number of engineers and scientists, which in turn is fostering a growing culture of innovation in these countries. In the U.S., we need more educational emphasis on intellectual property.

"After all, it is rapidly becoming the greatest asset class and greatest renewable resource of our time. Intellectual property should become a core requirement in business and engineering education disciplines, not just an elective in law school."

"Americans should no longer think of China as an emerging manufacturing power that disregards intellectual property rights. The enforcement system in China is still new and developing, but the country is dramatically increasing the number of patent filings it wants to receive (up from 300,000 in 2009 to an estimated 2 million in 2015) and adding patent examiners at an astounding pace. China will enforce intellectual property rights as soon as doing so is in its national interest. That day will come sooner than most people expect."

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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.




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