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Bernie Sanders

The main issues dominating the Sander’s campaign read like a wish list for every progressive idea one could imagine. From top down solutions to income and wealth inequality to making college tuition free to guaranteeing everyone a living wage to fighting for LGBT equality to saving the planet, Sanders top issues are certainly an honest reflection of the man and his long held beliefs.

In terms of patents and innovation policy, Sanders emphatically states: “Access to health care is a human right, and that includes access to safe and affordable prescription drugs. It is time to enact prescription drug policies that work for everyone, not just the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry.” He then goes on to state: “Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world.” His solution would include negotiating a better deal on behalf of Medicare, but would also include allowing individuals, pharmacists and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from licensed Canadian Pharmacies. While Sander’s prescription drug plan on his website does not mention the word “patent,” allowing the importation of patented drugs, which are the expensive drugs that people cannot afford, would require significant changes to the U.S. patent laws that the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries would fight with all of their might.

According to technology policy consult and intellectual property lobbyist Peter Harter, Sanders has been the agent for disruptive change and hope on the Democratic side. Harter recently wrote that “[t]he Sanders campaign machine may be a simple fulcrum. It leverages the enthusiasms of many, especially the young, accelerating their excitement into a broader community.” But what will this mean for intellectual property policy and initiatives for a would-be Sanders Administration? With so much of his support coming from Millennials and the “Napster generation,” which is now pushing 40, it is hard to know for certain. According to Harter, with the Sanders phenomena we may be witnessing a paradigm shift that could lead to changes in compensation for creativity that reward inclusiveness and community building, which would be in sharp contrast to traditional IP enforcement norms.

Harter also believes that a Sanders Administration would not be particularly influenced by traditional lobbying efforts. He writes:

On patent issues Sanders won’t be driven, or held hostage, by his votes in Congress or his industrial constituents in Vermont that produce a surprisingly high number of patents. Instead, Sanders will be operated by this fulcrum machine of talent that self-organizes.  Does this mean too that lobbyists and special interests will have less influence over patent policy in a Sanders administration? The answer is likely yes, at least if you are talking about existing corporate special interests and lobbyists that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

A Brief Biography

Elected to the United States Senate in 2006, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a self proclaimed Socialist who caucuses with the Democrats. Re-elected to the Senate in 2012 after receiving 71 percent of the vote, the Independent Sanders has spent twenty-five years in Congress, first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1990, serving as Vermont’s sole Member of the House of Representatives. This tenure makes Sanders the longest serving Independent Member of Congress in U.S. history.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Sanders moved to Vermont after college and worked as a carpenter and documentary filmmaker. In 1981, he was elected as mayor of Burlington, the state’s largest city, by just 10 votes. As mayor, Sanders helped transform Burlington into one of the most livable small cities in America. Under his Administration, the city made major strides in affordable housing, progressive taxation, environmental protection, childcare, women’s rights, youth programs and the arts.

In Congress, Sanders has fought for working families, focusing on the shrinking middle class and growing gap between the rich and everyone else. The theme of wage inequality permeates his Presidential campaign as well.

In the Senate Sanders serves on the Veterans Committee and is also the Ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. Sanders also serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he has focused much effort on global warming and rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Sanders is also a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where he has fought to transform our energy system from fossil fuels to renewable power sources like solar and wind. Sanders also serves on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.