One in Five U.S. Companies Say China Has Stolen Their Intellectual Property

March 1, 2019, 2:37 PM UTC

A new CNBC poll finds that one in five corporations say China has stolen their intellectual property within the last year.

Intellectual property, or IP, theft has been a major contentious issue in trade talks between the Trump administration and China.

IP theft—use of patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and copyrights without permission—may seem dry to many. But it represents big money. Intangible assets, which include IP, make up 80% of the value of S&P 500 companies, according to the Harvard Business Review.

IP theft may not seem the same as taking physical property, but it represents either a loss of opportunity or of competitive advantage that reduces the money a company could have made. The U.S. Trade Representative has estimated the annual loss to China at between $225 billion and $600 billion, according to CNN.

There are different ways Chinese companies reportedly obtain U.S. IP. Corporate espionage and cyberattacks are two, according to Axios. But so is forced technology transfers, in which the Chinese government compels companies investing in China to provide IP details and licenses.

The Trump administration has delayed additional tariffs that were supposed to go into effect March 1 because of progress in trade talks. But it is unclear whether there has been any progress on IP issues.