Bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act Would Crack Down on China Theft of U.S. IP

Safeguarding American Innovaiton Act - bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation to stop the theft of U.S. intellectual property by foreign governments, with a focus on China. The bill, titled the “Safeguarding American Innovation Act,” was introduced today by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), James Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chris Coons (D-DE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

According to a press release, the bill includes provisions to:

  • Punish individuals who intentionally fail to disclose foreign support on federal grant applications, with penalties ranging from fines and imprisonment for not more than five years or both and a five-year prohibition on receiving a federal grant;
  • Strengthen the Student and Exchange Visitor Program by requiring the State Department’s exchange program sponsors to have safeguards against unauthorized access to sensitive technologies and report to State if an exchange visitor will have access to sensitive technologies;
  • Strengthen the State Department’s authority to deny visas to certain foreign nationals seeking access to sensitive technologies when it is contrary to U.S. national security and economic security interests of the United States;
  • Mandate a standardized U.S. government grant process by authorizing the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal grant-making agencies to standardize the grant application process; share information about grantees; and create a U.S. government-wide database of federal grantees; and
  • Lower the reporting threshold for U.S. schools and universities receiving foreign gifts from $250,000 to $50,000 and giving the Department of Education authority to punish schools that fail to properly report.

Last year, a bipartisan report and subsequent hearing outlined how U.S. taxpayers have been unknowingly supporting China’s military and economic advancements via China’s so-called talent recruitment programs. An earlier report by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the U.S. Department of Education’s enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities was “historically lax.”

Senator Tillis has lately been outspoken about the threat of China IP theft, and recently published an op-ed in The Hill on the heightened risks during the pandemic.

“American innovation is one of our country’s greatest assets, especially in times of crisis such as this,” said Tillis. “China has been clear: If America can invent it, they will try to steal it. I’m proud to help lead this effort to protect American universities from attempts to steal sensitive information by China and other foreign adversaries.”


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Join the Discussion

8 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Mike]
    June 23, 2020 09:36 am

    When is Congress going to protect patents owned by independent inventors against predatory behavior at the PTAB from big tech? The scales are enormously tipped against them, and that is the venue where the true theft is happening.

  • [Avatar for jacek]
    June 21, 2020 01:54 pm

    Most needed innovation is to innovate how to replace the representatives involved in the pay to play situation we have. It is how to implement a political system free of corrupting money influence.
    The inventor of such INVENTION will join the pedestal of the founders of this country.
    No less.
    If we do not invent this, we can dream only aloud for the rest of our miserable lives. The recent protests are just a tip of a boiling volcano ready to burst.
    The eventual election of the “Fossil” as a replacement for the “Stable Genius” is going only to add fuel to the fire since he is not representing people demanding long-overdue reforms. He is not representing even himself since he suffers not only dementia but lack of any genuine propositions. Things are changing, and while 30 years ago, political subjects were absent in any social interaction, now they are everyday subjects of daily life. People finally realized the raw deal offered by Republicans as well Democratic politicians, and it starts to show. The idiotic discussion about universal health insurance when every major country in the world enjoys such a system widely recognized as beneficial for the economy and citizens is mind boiling. It is possible only in the country where almost daily school killings bring no preventive action due to MONEY influence. Who are the senators supporting Rifle Association, Big Tech, etc.? Let make a list of them and keep it upfront of the public eye.
    Almost impossible since the Big Tech controls the channels of public discussion and most like they are going take the “Bernie” approach ignoring his existence.or they will continue flooding people’s attention with stupid stuff. As always in any country, as we learned in history, it comes down to a few intellectuals able to form the essence of the opinions. Where are they? Is it not your duty to care about your homeland?

  • [Avatar for Ternary]
    June 20, 2020 03:07 pm

    I say: way to go, Pro Say (I mean Congress) and all innovators and rational people who realize innovation is a human endeavor! If you make it an institutional endeavor it will serve the interests of institutions, which eventually collapse under their own inertia (which is a lack of force and thus acceleration. see: Kodak, Sears (which had the basics to become Amazon), Blockbuster, DEC, Nortel, Lucent, ….)

  • [Avatar for Francis Rushford]
    Francis Rushford
    June 20, 2020 03:07 pm

    I have tired of the IP Theft narrative. Patent reform pushed by Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon put the U.S. here, not China. Destroying the value of US Patents in return for campaign checks is why the situation is what it is.

    The bipartisan efforts are lipstick on a pig.

    I understand that people represent Chinese Companies and have to defend them, but it is a bit embarrassing to observe.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    June 20, 2020 11:43 am

    As great an idea as this bill is, the bill and press release that America really needs most in today’s difficult and uncertain times is this:


    (Washington, D.C.) After many months of hard work including conducting multiple hearings with more than 40 witnesses, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE), along with Representatives Hank Johnson (D-GA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Doug Collins (R-GA), are pleased to announce that both houses of Congress have now passed the bipartisan Innovation Restoration Act of 2020 (IRA).

    The bill restores full patent eligibility to all areas of innovation, which will soon result in untold 10’s of 1,000’s of saved American lives along with more than 100 new company formations providing many 1,000’s of excellent new, high-paying jobs. All things our Country desperately needs now more than ever.

    “It was time to correct the handful of unconstitutional decisions by the Supreme Court – decisions which have seriously damaged the American innovation engine over the past 10 years,” explains Senator Coons. “The time to act was now.”

    “Under our Constitution, patent eligibility is the purview of Congress, and not the Courts,” Rep. Johnson added. “With this passage of the IRA, we have now taken back the American innovation reins.”

    The IRA provides that:

    1. The provisions of section 101 shall be construed in favor of eligibility.

    2. No implicit or other judicially created exceptions to subject matter eligibility,
    including “abstract ideas,” “laws of nature,” or “natural phenomena,” shall be used to determine patent eligibility under section 101, and all cases establishing or interpreting those exceptions to eligibility are hereby abrogated.

    3. The eligibility of a claimed invention under section 101 shall be determined without regard to: the manner in which the claimed invention was made; whether individual limitations of a claim are well known, conventional or routine; the state of the art at the time of the invention; or any other considerations relating to sections 102, 103, or 112 of this title.

    In writing and overwhelmingly approving this breakthrough bill, Congress correctly set aside the self-serving and baseless “concerns” of some members of Big Tech and other bad actors, who tried to slip in new, innovation-killing patentability requirements; including to Sections 100 and 112.

    “Such new and unnecessary requirements would have only served to move our Country’s innovation stagnation problem from one section of the Patent Code to others,” noted Senator Tillis. “That’s something we could not allow to happen.”

    “Other countries are eating our lunch,” Rep. Collins pointed out. “The IRA takes back our lunch by restoring world innovation leadership to America.”

    “It’s heartening to see our Congress come together in 2020 in order to protect and enable our new and evolving technologies and industries,” Rep. Nadler concludes.

    Congress: The best defense is a strong offense. The restoration of patent protection for all area’s of innovation would put America back on the innovation offense.

    There’s still time in 2020 for us to go back on the innovation offensive.

    What say you?

  • [Avatar for jacek]
    June 20, 2020 08:24 am

    It is for show only.
    Does Senator Tillis want to show to the world that he is doing something?
    What about senator Tillis’s statement that “The Participants who can not agree”? and subsequent abandonment of the latest attempt for a tiny improvement in our IP laws?
    It STINKS.

  • [Avatar for Ternary]
    June 19, 2020 11:50 am

    Theft is bad. Sure. But China seems to acquire new technology in a considerable part by legal means. That is: it uses information that is publicly available, train people here and provide incentives to return to China, demand IP transfer from US companies to do business in China (which they willingly do), offer relative inexpensive patent application filings, compensate talent well.

    In the mean time, it is made very hard in the USA to start a business based on patented technology. Independent inventors have difficult time to get started, by our own self-inflicted and damaged patent system.

    As an independent inventor I am less worried about Chinese theft of my IP rights than the extraordinary difficulties and costs to establish my valid IP rights here. Perhaps senator Tillis should return to improving our own system before making China the threat to our innovation economy. We are our own worst enemy.

    No matter how serious the theft is, it is useful to keep in mind that you cannot steal your way to innovation. In order for the theft to be useful you need an infrastructure that is capable to absorb. The fact that China can rapidly absorb new technology would be of a much greater policy concern.

  • [Avatar for Josh Malone]
    Josh Malone
    June 19, 2020 10:23 am

    In the end we have to chose war, isolation, or innovation.

    America could prevail through ingenuity and determination to make these old technologies obsolete. The older a technology gets, the more likely China will reverse engineer or steal it. If we increase the rate of innovation, we could constantly pump out superior technologies and stay ahead.

    Congress and the President are being reactive. Instead they should be pro-active. Our domestic policy is the only thing we an control. Congress should correct the policies that have discouraged innovation and competition.

    Imagine an ecosystem of thousands of startups inventing and commercializing new technologies. It wouldn’t matter that Huawei has 5G if we went back to rapid broad-based innovation backed by venture capital. We could choose from several superior domestic suppliers, they wouldn’t even require a new mmWave transmitter on every city block.

    The rest of the world should be constantly worried and in awe of what America comes up with next. We can do this.