Intellectual Property in U.S. Exports

The United States is a leading producer and exporter of goods and services that incorporate intellectual property, according to a World Trade Organization (WTO) report.

According to estimates, intellectual property is present in approximately 60% of U.S. merchandise exports and more than one-third of U.S. GDP is generated by IP-intensive industries.

The Department of Commerce (USDOC) has determined that 81 industries out of 313 (25.9% of the total) were IP-intensive, which translated to collectively generating about 40% of GDP.

A 2018 study found that the United States accumulated 31 percent of global knowledge-intensive and technology-intensive business services and was the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech manufactured goods (also 31 percent).

From mid-2018 to early 2022, the United States continued to maintain the traditional surplus in its balance of payments from IP-related business operations, as can be seen in the line item for charges for the use of intellectual property.

In 2020, net receipts were $70.8 billion, resulting from total receipts of $113.8 billion and payments reaching $43 billion.

Intellectual Property

In the first three quarters of 2021, receipts totaled $91 billion and payments totaled $34.7 billion, resulting in a surplus of $56.3 billion.

Intellectual property products measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) are R&D, software, and entertainment, literary or artistic originals.

These products are measured as fixed investments because they are used repeatedly in production processes and provide a lasting service to the businesses, non-profit institutions and government agencies that invest in them.

According to this measurement, private fixed investment in IP products reached $1.079 trillion in 2020, or about 5.4% of total GDP.

That year, the largest share of total private investment in such products corresponded to R&D (approximately 49.9% of the total); within this category, the main contribution came from R&D in the manufacturing sector (27.5% of the total).

In 2020, investment in software made up 42% of the total, while investment in entertainment, literary or artistic originals accounted for about 8.1% of the total.


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