Innovative and creative undertakings are the forces that drive the U.S. economy. Over the last century, we have experienced unparalleled advancements that defend our competitive edge and improve our quality of life. As a leader in innovation, our nation’s companies rely on intellectual property as one means for promoting sustainable growth.

Copyrights, trademarks, and patents allow companies to establish an authentic identity through ownership of their brand, inventions, and ideas. This legal framework benefits businesses, their employees—and, as a result, the economy.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce published Intellectual Property of the U.S. Economy: 2016 Update, a report that validates the powerful link between IP and economic evolution. Although every industry utilizes intellectual property rights, the U.S. Department of Commerce has identified 81 industries that use copyrights, trademarks, and patents more extensively than others. These “IP-intensive industries” are the ones that have the most profound impact on the nation’s economy. They directly and indirectly support up to 45 million jobs, which accounts for 30 percent of the total jobs in our country. These industries also contribute over $6 trillion to the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP), or 38.2 percent of its total amount.

The creation of high-paying jobs

The creation of jobs is integral to powering a better economy. IP-intensive industries—tech, entertainment, pharma, and media—continue to support an increasing number of jobs, and are also responsible for creating rich, culturally diverse companies. A percentage of these jobs are made up of self-employed individuals, who account for 8.5 percent of the jobs created in these industries.

While the creation of jobs is important, it is also important to note that these positions pay well—roughly 46 percent higher than in other industries. This means that, on average, an employee from an IP-intensive industry would make hundreds of dollars more per week than an employee working in a non-IP industry. There are 18 states across the country—where employee salaries in these industries are almost 20 percent above the national average.

Economic growth and competition

Intellectual property incentivizes owners to think creatively and develop unique innovations, knowing they are protected from copyright infringement. This fosters a more advanced economy, with many ideas and products proactively working to enhance quality of life for U.S. residents. IP also influences more investment opportunities and supports both entrepreneurial liquidity and licensed tech through various business valuations. These factors all affect how intellectual property is valued and how IP benefits the economy.

IP-intensive industries account for over 38 percent of our GDP, but they also account for 52 percent of merchandise exports from the United States—an unprecedented gain of $842 billion. Manufacturing, oil and gas, and pharmaceutical industries are just a few of the sectors that benefit the most from exports to other countries.

Although the economic advantages of IP are clear, there is still a lot that can be learned about how intellectual property can continue to energize the U.S. economy.