“Trump not having a clear, well-defined position on a patent reform agenda just means he is paying attention.”
Last night as the election was called for Donald Trump, Bloomberg Government’s patent reform news alerts circulated a new article from Ars Technica highlighting how bad Trump would be on IP issues mostly because he does not have specific positions. Ars Technica completely missing the point of a patent story by now is almost too much a cliché to even bother to point out, but what is rather remarkable is that Ars Technica is not alone. Predictably, Ars Technica totally misses what has been in plain view for nearly all of this year.
Others from Silicon Valley and the technology policy community, such as Engine, have ranked candidates and gave Trump low grades for not having a clear position. Last month at Mark Lemley’s annual patent conference at Stanford Law School an attorney that does work for Netflix and other Silicon Valley giants openly said that Trump’s campaign website had no stated position on patent reform while Clinton’s explicitly talked up the need for venue reform. Of course, the implication being if you are not in favor of a never ending revision of U.S. patent laws then you are somehow an ignorant rube not paying attention to the overwhelming consensus in the industry that vast new patent reform measures are desperately necessary to save America from the evils of innovators hell bent on innovating.
As the entirety of the elite thinking class miss read the electorate that will send President-Elect Trump to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, these same elite thinkers are fooling themselves if they think that there is a consensus on the issue of patent reform. Indeed, they are talking tough on patent reform because they know that moving patent reform was going to be more difficult even if Hillary Clinton had prevailed last night. The coalition against patent reform has slowed, then stalled and finally stopped patent reform, at least for now. Trump not having a clear, well-defined position on a patent reform agenda just means he is paying attention.
That being said, it is still important to fact check those who might have you believe that Trump has no positions on intellectual property related issues – because that is flatly not true. Indeed, with the ability of Silicon Valley to create new tools for sharing and discovering content it is rather amazing that they profess so little understanding about Trump’s views IP issues. To help clear the air here are the basic known facts:
- Trump’s campaign website, in the trade section, calls for the U.S. to go after China and others for stealing American IP.
- The GOP campaign platform unveiled in Cleveland for the convention in July openly said two things about IP: (a) Patents are a private property right like land protected by the Constitution; an (b) Theft of IP is so bad it is a national security issue.
- John G. Trump, the Uncle of Donald Trump, was a well regarded inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur that served his country during World War II inventing new radar technologies and then building a company while teaching at MIT inventing high powered lasers to address cancer. John’s work was recognized by Presidents Truman and Reagan.
- Trump, like it or not, has proven capable of monetizing his own name and personality while spanning the varied businesses of real property, entertainment, sports, and consumer products. Much of Trump’s wealth is tied up in the value of the various Trump trademarks and his own likeness, both of which are intellectual property assets that he has licensed and understands how to commercialize. He understands the business end of commercializing these types of IP assets as well as anyone in America.
- Trump has been an outspoken critic of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement negotiated by the Obama Administration. The TPP presents very real and damaging consequences for the intellectual property rights of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Blocking this agreement, or renegotiating this agreement, would be very welcomed by many in the biotech and pharma industries.
The next three months will be a busy period for the Trump transition team and it is unclear how existing patent reform bills may resurface in 2017, although we can be sure that there will be those that will seek to have patent reform take center stage once again. Since 2005 we have seen lots of bumper sticker headlines about trolls and the urgent need for patent reform consume all the oxygen in the room. But in time these headlines have been rebutted and shown as false, based on poor analysis and or incomplete data. The real story is about efficient infringement, which is code for stealing rights without paying.
Perhaps Ars Technica and others who are predisposed to wanting to see President-Elect Trump fail should use the opportunity of the transition period to gather facts about Trump’s views on IP so that we start 2017 with a complete and objective record. Wouldn’t that be refreshing.