Ranting on Congress: Not a Happy World IP Day in the US
|Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog
Zies, Widerman & Malek
Follow Gene on Twitter @IPWatchdog
Posted: Apr 26, 2011 @ 3:17 pm
UPDATED: 3:33pm Eastern Time
Happy World Intellectual Property Day! What, you didn’t buy a card or make dinner reservations? Did World Intellectual Property Day sneak up on you again this year? How could you let that happen? At a time when the United States Congress seems hell bent on destroying the patent system by inadequately funding the United States Patent and Trademark Office we really should celebrate something that seems to be functioning, so why not celebrate the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the innovation policies of nations who are stealing research and development away from the United States? What a tragedy that the World has better innovation policies than the United States.
So what is World Intellectual Property Day? In 2000, WIPO member states decided to designate a World Intellectual Property Day to raise awareness of the role of intellectual property in our daily lives, and to celebrate the contribution made by innovators and artists to the development of societies around the world. The date selected for celebrating World Intellectual Property Day was April 26, which was chosen because it was April 26, 1970 when the Convention establishing WIPO entered into force. So today also marks the 41st Anniversary of the establishment of WIPO.
This year’s World Intellectual Property Day celebrates the role of design in the market-place, in society and in shaping the innovations of the future. It is good to know that somewhere there is an agency that is concerned with innovations shaping the future, it is just too bad that it isn’t in the United States. In any event, across the world, IP Offices, associations, businesses and technology institutions have announced numerous activities to mark the day, including competitions, exhibitions and public discussions. It seems that the United States Congress choose to mark World Intellectual Property Day here in the United States by siphoning off $100 million from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (see Patent reforms derailed), requiring severe austerity measures to be put into place in order for the Office to have any chance of making it through the remainder of the fiscal year without furloughs.
Truthfully, as sad as this really is, there appear to be no scheduled events, celebrations or commemorations in the United States surrounding World Intellectual Property Day, which in and of itself speaks volumes. For crying out loud even Syria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have some kind of events scheduled, but there is no mention of any U.S. celebration on the WIPO 2011 IP Activity Day page, and no mention that I can find on the USPTO website. I guess innovation just doesn’t rate here in the U.S. any more.
Of course, who can blame the USPTO for not celebrating given they just told patent examiners that overtime is suspended (despite the ridiculously large patent backlog), there is a hiring freeze and much awaited for programs to speed the patent process have been placed on hold because Congress is taking user fees away from the USPTO to fund other things that are apparently far more important than innovation that leads to job creation.
For goodness sake, when are the folks in Washington, D.C., going to wake up? We are languishing through a jobless recovery and many in Washington are talking about raising taxes? Didn’t we just decide several months ago that at least for the time being we will hold off on that and work toward reinvigorating the U.S. economy and then have that debate when the economy is growing and people have jobs? Litigate, re-litigate and re-litigate the litigation is what politics in D.C. are about, all the while people don’t have jobs and the one agency of the federal government that can create wealth and assets simply by acknowledging they exist is hamstrung by such a lack of funding that the agency cannot operate.
For crying out loud, patents are an asset that attract investment. All the USPTO has to do is issue the damn things in a timely fashion, and they can’t even do that! Issuing patents is their mission, that is the entire purpose for having a Patent Office, yet Congress is content with innovations remaining locked up for 5 to 10 years at the Patent Office. An un-issued patent doesn’t do anyone any good.
The once mighty Patent Office is choking the economic recovery we could otherwise be having in the United States. In fact, the Patent Office is like Frankenstein, who is following the instructions of Congress (playing the part of Dr. Frankenstein), squeezing the life right out of innovators. Don’t even get me started with patent reform clearly favoring companies that are not innovators and foreign corporations that simply want to trample patent rights, but I digress. Why is Congress ordering the Patent Office to stand in the way of innovation leading to recovery full of high paying, innovation based jobs? Are they that clueless really?
So while the rest of the world celebrates World Intellectual Property Day we in the United State are starting to come to grips with the reality that Congress as a whole just does not care about innovation, or they think it happens through some mystical process in spite of anti-innovation and anti-business policies.
Whether it is intentional, as the result of ignorance or due to catering to lobbyists, it certainly does seem that Washington has contempt for innovators. They act as if innovation just happens. There are plenty of scientific and business obstacles to innovating. When you add in the unnecessary obstacles inserted into the process by Congress by way of a Patent Office that simply doesn’t have the resources to function, myopic tax policies and regulations that make it difficult to start a business, there is no great surprise that innovation is failing to create jobs. Innovation is failing period as a result of government.
Notwithstanding, please do try and have a very happy, merry and/or prosperous World Intellectual Property Day!
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Immediately after publishing this article I received the following press release from Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The Department of Commerce is not the culprit, and neither is the Patent Office. I have tremendous respect for Secretary Locke and Director Kappos, now if only their commitment would be matched by Congress!
In any event, here is the statement of Secretary Locke on World Intellectual Property Day:
“Innovation is at the heart of U.S. job creation, competitiveness and global strength, and today, in celebrating the 11th anniversary of World Intellectual Property Day, we are reminded of how critical intellectual property rights are to driving innovation and unleashing the ingenuity of the American people.
“In today’s competitive global economic climate, protecting and encouraging American innovation has never been more important. A strong intellectual property system enables successful inventors to secure access to capital and hire employees – creating new jobs, new industries and new economic opportunities for Americans.
“With patent reform legislation now being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives, we have the opportunity to modernize the U.S. intellectual property system and empower the United States Patent and Trademark Office to speed the movement of job-creating ideas to the marketplace. This administration continues to strongly support the bipartisan efforts of Congress to enact legislation that fosters innovation, promotes the growth and competitiveness of the U.S. economy and helps America win the future.”
About the Author
Gene Quinn is a US Patent Attorney, law professor and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the top patent bar review course in the nation, which helps aspiring patent attorneys and patent agents prepare themselves to pass the patent bar exam. Gene started the widely popular intellectual property website IPWatchdog.com in 1999, and since that time the site has had many millions of unique visitors. Gene has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the LA Times, USA Today, CNN Money, NPR and various other newspapers and magazines worldwide. He represents individuals, small businesses and start-up corporations. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.