“Biden said over and over during his campaign, ‘I view this as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” in comparing his industrial hometown to his opponent’s roots in Manhattan. Well, this is an immediate opportunity for Biden to stand up for the ‘little guy.’”
When Joe Biden became President-elect Biden, he asked us to imagine a new, more hopeful version of America. He urged us to work toward leaving a “grim era” behind – a COVID-19 outbreak, economic devastation, social unrest, and a contentious election. It won’t be easy to recover, and it will require that Americans do something recently seen as undoable – unite, cooperate, and innovate.
President-elect Biden immediately took a step in the right direction, though, pledging to be a president who “does not see red or blue states, but United States.” His economic priorities are also clearly expressed in the first sentence of his Build Back Better economic plan, which states, “Joe Biden believes to his core that there’s no greater economic engine in the world than the hard work and ingenuity of the American people.” These are encouraging sentiments, but to make more substantial inroads his rhetoric will hopefully be supported by real policy. Improving the protection of America’s intellectual property (IP) is an economic opportunity that he needs to capitalize on.
Biden Must Take Immediate Action on Innovation
America must continue to be an IP-driven economy. Overall, the direct and indirect impacts of innovation account for more than 40% of U.S. economic growth and employment. Unfortunately, right now, we’re suffering losses that we can’t afford. Every year, Chinese IP theft costs the U.S. economy between $225 and $600 billion. Since 2001, more than 3.4 million American manufacturing jobs have been lost to China. Particularly considering COVID-19’s economic impact and the ongoing uphill recovery, immediate action needs to be taken.
First, we need to organize our domestic innovation strategy. We’ve all heard the adage, “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Well, when it comes to IP, America can’t help but throw stones.
There’s a reason that we’ve contributed more to the last century of innovation than any other country – we break rules, defy norms, and exceed expectations. So, we need to make sure our patent laws can withstand the stones that will inevitably come our way. Simply put, that means simplifying and expanding our eligibility laws. For a country whose economy counts on broad-based innovation, we can no longer afford the self-inflicted wound of restrictive, unnecessarily complicated laws.
Amending these eligibility laws would complement a larger effort as well – incentivizing all forms of innovation. Right now, huge areas of technology, such as diagnostic medicine and computer innovation, are ineligible for patenting. This is because of the influence of a small set of large tech companies who benefit from controlling the newest technologies. But what’s best for these companies isn’t what’s best for America’s future. We need our next generation of innovators to be encouraged and inspired – that starts with allowing them to patent their ideas.
Inspiring America’s innovators also means protecting them. The United States currently has weak IP laws that allow larger companies to take advantage of smaller ones. Biden said over and over during his campaign, “I view this as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” in comparing his industrial hometown to his opponent’s roots in Manhattan. Well, this is an immediate opportunity for Biden to stand up for the “little guy.” We need to change the perverse incentives in IP law so that America is investing in innovators, not litigators. This has never been more important to remember than during COVID-19.
Fuel the Fire
Public health emergencies have historically brought out anti-patent opportunists who claim that the therapies and vaccines being developed are made less available to the public because of patents. The claim is that patents increase price, make production less widespread, and that the public already paid for the drug’s development through taxes.
This argument ignores a simple, yet crucial reality that has never been more important to remember: patent grants exists to incentivize innovators to invest their precious time, passion, and money on the risky proposition of creating something new. As President Abraham Lincoln said, patents add the “fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” To recover from COVID-19 as effectively as possible and achieve President-elect Biden’s goal of a united, successful America, he should look no further than recognizing the value of America’s innovators and fight to protect them now.
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