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White-Collar Outgo

Author: T.A. Frank
December 3, 2010

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National Journal's T.A. Frank reports on the overlooked US profits ranging from CareBear intellectual property remunerations to the tuition at a presitigious American University.

Customers abroad also paid a tidy sum (about $90 billion, nearly a fifth of service exports) in U.S. royalties and license fees in 2009. Those fees paid to holders of American patents, trademarks, and copyrights enabled foreigners to watch our movies, use our inventions, and produce our pills.

Intellectual property comes in many forms. Some wouldn’t consider the Care Bears, devised in the 1980s by American Greetings, a high-end service, but foreign license-holders of the franchise might disagree. Every time a Care Bear card is printed overseas or a stuffed Care Bear is manufactured, American Greetings makes money—more than $2.6 billion in global sales since 2001. And more than a third of the company’s revenues come from overseas. That’s why consumers in Japan will soon be introduced to an Asian version of the Care Bear. That would be the Sweet Sakura Bear, which American Greetings describes as “a shy and modest bear that delivers a unique message created specially to reflect the values and symbols of Japan,” among them the “importance of savoring and appreciating the splendor of every passing moment.”

Meanwhile, the Johnson Fain architectural firm represents what the Commerce Department’s statisticians classify as “other private services.” The value of these services comes from brainpower honed over many years of study and experience in fields such as accounting, education, advertising, legal counsel, medical care, and telecommunications. Many of these services rank among the fastest-growing U.S. exports.

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