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Posts Tagged ‘IP’
July 8th, 2014 at 3:58 pm
What Economists Miss in the Patent Reform Debate
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Following up on our patent reform post last week, today’s Wall Street Journal includes an interesting viewpoint via letters to the editor.  Specifically, Paul Adams of Albuquerque, New Mexico notes that while some economists short-sightedly applaud the way in which weakening patent protections and encouraging copying can lower costs in the near-term, they ignore the longer-term incentive to invest and invent that strong patent protections provide:

It may satisfy economists that allowing copying by large corporations will drive down prices for consumers since there is no other way to compete.  But that does enhance technology.  In fact, one benefit of the patent system is the pressure on competitors to invent a different and likely better solution, thereby advancing the technology.  I have on many occasions assisted competitors in ‘designing around’ a patent creating a new product or service.  There are few patents of such broad scope that there is not an alternative.”

Opponents of strong patent protections often fancy themselves clear-sighted, dispassionate, economics-based observers, but their positions are more accurately penny-wise but pound-foolish, as Mr. Adams correctly notes.

July 2nd, 2014 at 5:05 pm
The Mythical “Patent Troll?”
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

“Patent troll.”  The term has assumed prevalence amid discussion of broader patent law reform, which we at CFIF have supported in some incarnations.

The “patent troll” problem, however, is to a large degree a litigation problem more than a problem inherent in our patent system.  And in that vein, two prominent conservative/libertarian figures have penned a Wall Street Journal commentary entitled “The Myth of the Wicked Patent Troll.”  Author Stephen Haber is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Prosperity, while co-author Ross Levine is a business professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a senior fellow at the Milken Institute.  In other words, their intellectual and free-market credentials are well-established.

In their commentary, Mr. Haber and Mr. Levine substantively detail research showing that, “innovation rates have been strongest in exactly the industries that patent-reform advocates claim are suffering from ‘trolls’ and a broken patent system.”  They also correctly highlight the fact that, for whatever its flaws, our patent system is the world’s greatest:

Thanks in large part to the patent system we have, the current rate of invention in the U.S. might be the fastest in human history.  Where is the evidence that society would benefit from undertaking the risky process of reforming a patenting system that has been the envy of the world for more than two centuries?”

The real problem, they say, is large corporations seeking to leverage government power in pursuit of their own self-interest:

There is one basic reason behind the attacks on trolls:  Big Money.  Many patent-intensive products — the smartphone in your pocket, the laptop computer in your briefcase — are produced by big corporations that license many patents.  The iPhone is a classic example:  It contains thousands of patented components, but Apple does not own many of the key ones.  It must negotiate for the right to use them.  These corporations can make higher profits the less they pay to use patented technology they do not own, and higher profits still by paying nothing at all.  The battle over the ‘right price’ for patented technologies takes many forms, one of which is political.  Indeed, some corporations are looking to gain a competitive edge by changing the rules of the game.  The strategy is to pass patent-reform legislation that weakens the negotiating position of patent holders.  Corporations that pay large sums for patented technologies will point to lawsuits, trolls and anything else that will encourage lawmakers to pass such reforms.”

Agree or disagree, their piece brings an important and under-discussed perspective to the ongoing patent reform debate.

February 25th, 2014 at 11:47 am
Homeland Security Hearing Should Emphasize Intellectual Property Protections and Stopping Piracy
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

At 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing with new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson entitled “The Secretary’s Vision for the Future – Challenges and Priorities.”  The hearing provides a perfect opportunity for Chairman Michael McCaul (R – Texas) and his committee to emphasize America’s commitment to Intellectual Property (IP) protections, and to ensure that combating IP theft – both the anti-counterfeiting operations and efforts to stop online IP piracy – remain on the front burner.

Correctly and justifiably, many divisions and agencies within the Department focus on national security, but it would also be useful for the Committee members to discuss others that have a role in our economic well-being.  A large and diverse coalition of businesses recently came together to write Secretary Johnson, stressing upon him the importance of protecting American ingenuity and our competitive edge by reinforcing the need for strong enforcement of IP.  American companies continue to create the world’s most innovative goods and products, and fully two-thirds of all U.S. exports come from industries that depend on the recognition of strong IP rights.

Unfortunately, whenever creators succeed in building brands that consumers come to trust, there will in turn be nefarious characters who seek ill-gotten profit from someone else’s good name and hard work.  Fake consumer products, medicines, apparel and other goods can be found online, and unsuspecting shoppers end up with inferior, even dangerous products from unknown sources both domestic and abroad.  Consequently, absent significant effort by U. S. enforcement agencies, those knock-off goods can end up in hurting both the purchaser and the company unfairly being copied.  Whether manifested by state-sponsored theft of U.S. military technology, Eastern-bloc crime bosses using revenue of fake goods to fund their syndicates or simply domestic swindlers trying to scam consumers, U. S. policy makers and officials need to do what it takes to stop the bad guys to help ensure fair play as well as our safety.

Emphasizing that point at tomorrow’s hearing will provide an important step in that path.

February 10th, 2014 at 5:00 pm
MPAA’s Ben Sheffner Sets the Record Straight on the Value of Copyright Protections
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Do America’s copyright protections stifle artistic innovation?

Obviously, that question answers itself.  After all, no nation in human history even approaches the United States in terms of sheer scale of musical, film and other creative innovation.  And that’s due precisely to our strong copyright laws that reward creativity and incentivize more.  Moreover, Americans’ ability to access a greater amount of artistic content, more easily, more cheaply and via more outlets increases daily.

Bizarrely, however, the contrary assertion remains regrettably fashionable even among some self-proclaimed “libertarian” and “conservative” circles.  Fortunately, voices of reason rebut the pernicious anti-intellectual property (IP) movement’s myths, and bring clarity to the debate.  One such voice of reason is Ben Sheffner, the MPAA’s Vice President of Legal Affairs.  In this abbreviated and this full-length debate video recently released, Mr. Sheffner clarifies the realities and refutes the curious claim that copyright laws inhibit innovation.  Quite the contrary, he makes clear, strong copyright laws not only preserve the fruits of creators’ labor, they incentivize the risk-taking and investment critical to spark additional creativity now and into the future.

Mr. Sheffner does an excellent job, and absolutely schools Derek Khanna multiple times on both the broader and finer points of intellectual property generally, and copyright more specifically.

January 16th, 2014 at 4:12 pm
Free Trade Negotiations Offer Opportunity to Improve Intellectual Property Protections
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In our Liberty Update this week, we highlight the new 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, which itself highlights the critical importance of property rights and free trade in generating prosperity.  The facts, and that correlation, are simply beyond dispute.

On that note, current Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement negotiations provide a critical opportunity to upgrade intellectual property (IP) protections that have gradually become outdated since the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed two decades ago.  That was the expert conclusion of Mark T. Elliot, Executive Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, in testimony this week before the House of Representatives at a hearing entitled “NAFTA at Twenty:  Accomplishments, Challenges, and the Way Forward.”

At the time of signing, NAFTA intended to create the best levels of IP protection and enforcement…  It was a testament to how important IP was viewed by Mexico, Canada, and the United States.  However, as this was signed twenty years ago, this level of IP protection is now a very low bar in 2014.  In 2012, the Chamber released an International IP Index, a comprehensive review of the intellectual property environment in 11 key markets based on existing international standards and best practices.  The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia all perform well in the Index…  Mexico and Canada, however, rank closer to the likes of Russia, Malaysia, and China.

In Mexico, however, we continue to see progress… and the business community has been working productively with the Mexican government.  In contrast, Canada’s relative low score is a result of wide-ranging IP problems including:  enforcement, weak on membership and poor ratification of international treaties, and significant problems with patent and copyright laws.  Canada is the largest trading partner for the United States… [making] it all the more bewildering to the business community at how substandard Canada’s IP system is.”

When NAFTA was signed, it was an idea ahead of its time.  And as former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff Thomas “Mack” McLarty noted a recent Wall Street Journal commentary, the results have been spectacular:

U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada has tripled to more than $1 trillion a year, supporting millions of American jobs.  The U.S. exported more last year to Mexico than to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined; and more to Canada, with 35 million people, than to the European Union, with 500 million…  NAFTA also opened the door for free trade agreements across Latin America, a catalyst for economic and political reforms.  Mexico was transformed from one of the most closed economies in the world to one of the most open, and it subsequently threw off decades of one-party rule.   Today, U.S. products make up 40% of the contents of goods imported here from Mexico (compared with 4% in goods imported from China).  An integrated market boosts exports and imports, and helps keep good jobs at home.”

Today, we face a perfect opportunity to improve upon NAFTA’s good thing.   As Mr. Elliot testified:

2014 will present many opportunities for the United States, Canada, and Mexico to further improve their IP environments…  In particular, all three countries are participants in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement negotiations.  The TPP is being negotiated between 12 different countries, and it is essential that it include robust standards for IP protection, using the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement as a model and providing 12 years of regulatory data protection for biologic products.  We encourage the U.S., Canadian, Mexican, and all TPP negotiators to uphold their positions and protect IP from the efforts to weaken existing laws and norms.  The TPP provides the U.S., Canada, and Mexico the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of strong IP protections, innovation, and access to the creations and inventions of the 21st century.  A TPP agreement that includes a high-standard IP chapter is good for jobs and good for international trade.  The TPP will also allow Canada to raise its IP standards, promote innovation, and bolster its growing economy.  2014 should be the year when the North American neighbors work together to improve each other’s IP environments and the IP environments of countries around the world.”

Free trade and strong IP rights are critical components of economic freedom, which the latest Index of Economic Freedom shows is causally related to a nation’s prosperity.  America, Canada, Mexico and the other negotiating nations face an important opportunity in 2014 to improve upon both, which will boost our prosperity at a time when we desperately need it.

July 26th, 2013 at 4:23 pm
New Survey: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Intellectual Property Rights, Efforts to Fight Piracy
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

I had the honor this week of participating in a panel on Capitol Hill hosted by The American Consumer Institute (ACI), whose speakers also included Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee), ACI’s Steve Pociask,Todd McCracken of the National Small Business Association, Sandra Aistars of the Copyright Alliance and Dr. Joseph Fuhr, Jr., Professor at Widener University and ACI Senior Fellow.  At that time, ACI unveiled its new public opinion survey showing overwhelming support for intellectual property (IP) rights and legal efforts to combat IP piracy.  Remarkably, in this era of political polarization, that support approaches 90%, so political leaders should pay attention.

Today, IP rights are under constant threat not only by way of theft and counterfeiting, but also by special interests here and abroad who seek to undermine IP protections.  For example, some of the nations with whom the U.S. is negotiating free trade agreements believe that IP should receive little, if any, legal protection.  Accordingly, for my part I emphasized that IP is precisely the basis on which the U.S. has evolved into the most prosperous, innovative nation in human history.  After all, many alternative legal systems exist providing less protection for IP.  Yet it is here in America, with its strong tradition of IP protection, where the overwhelming amount of innovation has occurred over the past two centuries.  That is not by accident, and it’s not coincidence.

Our IP system has delivered a higher standard of living and record of creation than any other system that the world has ever known.

But I also emphasized that IP protections aren’t just utilitarian in nature, as some seem to claim.  Rather, IP protections also reflect our view that the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor and efforts is a natural, unalienable one.  As stated by John Locke, “Our handiwork becomes our property because our hands – and the energy, consciousness, and control that fuel their labor – are our property.”  That right is at the core of American society itself.  The Constitution reads, “The Congress shall have the Power … [t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  That reflects not only British common law, which is the basis for our own legal system, but also the Founding Fathers’ views.  In The Federalist No. 43, James Madison noted, “The copyright of authors has been solemnly adjudged, in Great Britain, to be a right of common law.”

Today, American IP is valued at approximately $5 trillion, which is greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of any other nation in the world.  It also accounts for over half of American exports, which is critical at a time of increasing international competition.  Unfortunately, piracy of U.S. IP constitutes a multi-billion dollar threat, which steals our wealth and deprives our innovators the fruits of their labor.

With ACI’s new study, lawmakers can recognize where the American public overwhelmingly stands.  That data can prove critical in the ongoing battle to protect IP rights and increase legal protections to fight piracy both domestically and abroad.

June 12th, 2013 at 4:51 pm
What Senator Ted Cruz Just Said About Intellectual Property
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Speaking at an America’s Future Foundation (AFF) gathering, Senator Ted Cruz stood up decisively for intellectual property (IP) rights in America.  Whereas too many contemporary political figures either falsely malign IP protections or equivocate while trying to please everyone, Sen. Cruz advocated more vigorous enforcement of IP, highlighted IP’s unique role in America becoming the most innovative and prosperous society in human history, described the incentive it provides for small businesses (which create most new jobs in America), detailed its importance in sparking desperately-needed economic growth and sounded the alarm regarding domestic and foreign IP theft.   In addition, he offered an interesting personal insight by describing his legal work as an attorney before the Supreme Court.

 

For good measure, Senator Cruz also took a nice swing at the misnamed Marketplace Fairness Act, the pernicious Internet sales tax legislation that somehow passed the Senate but fortunately appears doomed in the House.  He’s looking like a gem.

January 18th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
“Internet Freedom” Doesn’t Mean Freedom to Steal
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Various groups that favor such things as making the Internet a public utility have declared today “Internet Freedom Day.”  That’s a euphemism, unfortunately, meant to disguise a deeper animosity toward property rights.  What they falsely label “freedom of expression” is often a transparent aversion to straightforward intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property, or IP, simply refers to the legal protection accorded to creators in the same way that someone possesses a natural physical property right.  The only distinction is that IP protects inventions, artistic expressions and distinguishing trademarks.  Although opponents of IP falsely attempt to distinguish it from physical property by, among other things, asserting that physical property is finite whereas IP is infinite, that’s a sloppy distinction without a difference.  After all, if your automobile sits unused in a garage as you read this, then according to their logic its social utility would be increased by allowing someone who doesn’t own your car to use it while you are not.  Try telling a recording artist that after investing effort and financial resources in securing costly studio time and top-quality backup singers and band members, he or she has no right to the creation or to enjoy the fruits of his or her labor.

Protection of IP is necessary to not only secure for innovators the just fruits of their labor, but also to provide societal incentive for innovation.  No reasonable person opposes Internet freedom, but nor should that concept be used to disguise animosity toward property rights.

Today, IP remains under threat from foreign piracy, costing hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Businesses reliant upon IP account for more than 60% of American exports, which are by nature more vulnerable to foreign piracy.  Those businesses also employ almost 55 million workers, pay their employees an average wage 30% higher than non-IP counterparts and account for $5.7 trillion of the nation’s GDP. Meanwhile, parasitic overseas websites continue to threaten that IP wellspring of innovation, jobs and prosperity.  Although estimates vary, foreign IP piracy now amounts to a cumulative enterprise that inflicts at least $500 billion in loss annually and now accounts for approximately 25% of all Internet traffic.

Each moment, rogue sites across the world seek to make an easy and illegal profit by selling things they had no hand in creating.  That has to stop.  Although many proponents of today’s so-called “Internet Freedom Day” will falsely demonize future efforts to curtail IP theft, they must be recognized as apologists for illegality.  Just something to bear in mind amidst the synthetic hoopla.

May 14th, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations Offer Important IP Opportunity
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

At this moment in Dallas, Texas, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations have resumed, with important implications for intellectual property (IP).

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, 75 domestic industries it identifies as “IP-intensive” account for 40 million jobs, approximately 28% of our total employment.  Industries reliant upon IP also account for $5 trillion – some 35% – of total American gross domestic product (GDP), 61% of U.S. merchandise exports and pay wages 42% higher than non-IP employers.

It is therefore critical that TPP negotiators establish a solid foundation for IP protection as they move toward finalization.

The TPP currently consists of eight Pacific trading partners in addition to the U.S. – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile and Peru.  In 2010 alone, America exported $89 billion in goods to those nations, making the TPP one of our largest collective export markets.  The express goal of the TPP charter is “to establish a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes trade and investment and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges.”  And with other Pacific region nations Japan, Canada and Mexico expressing interest in joining the TPP, the agreement currently under negotiation can set the foundation for future trade practices across the Pacific realm.

To its credit, the U.S. stands as a worldwide leader in demanding strong IP standards in agreements such as this, as reflected by domestic laws and international accords such as the one completed just last year with Korea.  Similarly, with pressure on to finalize TPP negotiations, we must ensure strong IP protections in the final agreement.  Doing so will prove beneficial in terms of protecting American jobs against theft and counterfeit, protecting American consumers against potentially dangerous products, reducing the threat to American creativity and innovation posed by copyright infringement, promoting future innovation, protecting American competitiveness against those who seek to steal our ideas and creations and setting clear rules for worldwide commerce.

If successful, we can set a sound foundation of IP protection, which will prove critical for American innovation, jobs, exports and continued prosperity in an increasingly Pacific-dominated 21st century.

July 15th, 2011 at 12:39 pm
CFIF to Congress: Fight Online Theft Through the PROTECT IP Act
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

This week, CFIF joined dozens of employers, entrepreneurs and groups spanning the political spectrum on Capitol Hill to ask Congress to help put a stop to online theft by rogue websites that steal jobs and cost American businesses $135 billion annually.  In this era it is rare to find an issue that achieves almost complete consensus among ideologies and interest groups, but this is one.

Rogue websites steal intellectual property (IP) through counterfeiting, knockoff goods, piracy and misappropriation of movies, music, books and software.  Such thieves don’t pay taxes, they don’t follow American laws, they cut into American exports at a time of enormous trade deficits and they cut into our jobs and earnings.  Astoundingly, such sites constitute approximately 25% of all Internet traffic (53 billion visits per year), deceive honest customers, spread malware and even threaten lives and health with counterfeit pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Simply put, there is no justification or defense whatsoever for rogue websites.  So what to do?

Well, on May 12, 2011 Senators Orrin Hatch (R – Utah), Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D – Vermont) along with nine other original co-sponsors  introduced S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act.  That legislation would at long last halt rogue site access to the American market and help secure the fundamental rule of law.  Because many rogue sites operate outside our borders, the Act would allow the Department of Justice or private individuals to obtain court orders halting search engine connections to sites proven through due process to be “dedicated to infringing activity.”  The Act would also require payment processors and online advertising networks to discontinue payments to rogue sites.

Chances are that you or others close to you are impacted by rogue websites causing inestimable damage to U.S. jobs and prosperity.  We can help put a stop to that travesty by supporting the PROTECT IP Act and asking our Senators and Representatives to do the same.