In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and…
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First Amendment Rights: Good News from the IRS on Donor Privacy

In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and First Amendment expression, there’s actually good news to report.

In fact, that positive development comes from none other than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which few people typically consider a font of good news.

Specifically, the IRS just announced a proposed rule to stop requiring nonprofit organizations to file what’s known as a Form 990 Schedule B, which exposes sensitive donor information not only to the federal government and potential rogues like former IRS official Lois Lerner, but also people who seek to access and use that information to target people on the basis of political belief.

As we at CFIF have long asserted, this welcome move will help protect the…[more]

September 12, 2019 • 11:07 am

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NAFTA Updated: A Win for U.S. Intellectual Property Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, October 11 2018
Among other improvements, the new USCMA creates the most comprehensive set of IP enforcement provisions in the world.

This month, as expected, Canada agreed to join the trade accord reached earlier between the United States and Mexico, updating the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

Although the fine print remains to be parsed as Congress moves toward ratification, one important fact is already clear:  the renegotiated accord constitutes a significant win for American intellectual property (IP) rights. 

That's critical, because America's tradition of protecting IP  patent, copyright, trademark and trade secrets  largely explains our status as the most prosperous, inventive and artistically influential nation in human history. 

Our Founding Fathers, mindful of English common law tradition, specifically protected IP rights in the text of Article I of the Constitution, providing that "Congress shall have the Power ... To 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." 

Just like physical property, the Founders valued the inherent natural right of people to enjoy the fruits of their own labor, while also recognizing the value of incentivizing inventive activity.  James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, proclaimed in the Federalist Papers that, "The public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of individuals."  Former patent attorney Abraham Lincoln later affirmed, "The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery and production of new and useful things."  

Throughout the decades and centuries since, America has maintained its exceptionalism in protecting IP rights like no other nation.  Year after year, we rank atop global IP protection surveys, which explains why no nation remotely matches our record of innovation. 

Today, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), IP-intensive industries account for approximately 40% of total U.S. annual economic output and 45 million jobs  about 30% of total U.S. employment. 

By protecting that tradition, the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement ("USMCA") helps pave the way to preserve our status into the 21st century.   Not only does the updated agreement improve our trading relationship with two of our largest partners, it provides a framework for trade agreements with other nations to create freer markets, greater fairness and increased economic growth. 

Among other improvements, the new USCMA creates the most comprehensive set of IP enforcement provisions in the world.  From the effective date of the agreement forward, enforcement authorities will be empowered to intercept counterfeit or pirated goods at any point of entrance or exit. 

The USCMA agreement will allow the full panoply of remedies for American IP holders, including civil remedies, injunctions during the litigation process and prohibitions against impeding the licensing of trade secrets.  Importantly, those remedies will apply to state-owned enterprises and against government officials who engage in wrongful conduct such as disclosing trade secrets. 

The USMCA's IP chapter will mandate full national recognition of copyright and related rights, including protection of U.S. creators to the same extent that other nations' domestic creators receive within their borders.  The agreement includes more significant civil and criminal penalties for such illegal activities as satellite and cable signal theft, illegal recording and reselling of motion pictures and other widespread violations. 

The new USMCA extends copyright protections to a minimum of 75 years, which helps ensure that creative works like song performances remain protected in an era of digital transmission.  It also establishes a "notice and takedown" procedure with safe harbors for internet service providers that allows for safeguarding IP while protecting legitimate technology platforms that don't commit or directly benefit from infringement, as is the case under current U.S. law. 

In the area of patents, the agreement includes patentability standards and official patent office "best practices" to ensure protection of American inventors.  That constitutes a critical victory for small and medium-sized businesses, which often lack the resources to litigate their claims abroad. 

The USMCA also strengthens protection for pharmaceutical and agricultural innovators, including ten years of protection for biologic drugs and an expansion of the scope of products eligible for protection.  The U.S. accounts for fully two-thirds of all new life-saving and life-improving pharmaceuticals, so protecting that important sector constitutes an enormous win. 

The revised agreement also enhances trademark protection, which can be invaluable to companies trying to distinguish themselves in a competitive global market. 

In addition to the other merits the new agreement brings, it's immediately obvious that its IP chapter paves the way for more decades of American innovation, growth, jobs and prosperity. 

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