The division within the Republican congressional majority that killed tough anti-abortion legislation and has bottled up immigration reform is now threatening bipartisan “patent reform,” with some conservative critics warning that it amounts to a secret Obama gift to Google.
As Congress moves to pass the comprehensive reform, critics including likely 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell are urging a slow down.
They claim that the rush for broad reform, while geared to limiting lawsuits, threatens inventors. They also charge that companies such as Google, which has hundreds of patents, has cozied up to the Obama administration to win the new reforms that might protect their effort to out-patent competitors like Apple.
The latest criticism came from Blackwell in a letter to 75 conservative leaders.
“[T]he number one corporate cheerleader for patent reform has been Google,” he wrote in the letter provided to Secrets. “Let’s not forget how close the Obama administration is to Google. There has practically been a revolving door between the company and the White House. If you hate crony capitalism, then you should be worried about the administration and Congress acting so aggressively to overhaul the patent system to advance the financial interests of Google and others.”
Proponents want the reforms, claiming that big companies get hit by “patent trolls” that cost millions of dollars to fight. Critics agree that the trolls are a problem, but believe the comprehensive reforms backed by Obama and senior GOP leaders go to far.
Below is Blackwell’s letter:
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is an issue that will likely be making its way through Congress in the coming months that the conservative movement needs to be aware of and vigilant about – so called patent reform. In the coming months, some Republican leaders will trumpet “patent reform” as an issue that has bipartisan support and one where we can demonstrate early on that we are willing to work with the President. Just last week, Sen. John Cornyn, said he looks forward to “moving legislation early this year.” Some have tried to claim that this is good for the economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rushing to pass bad legislation just so we can demonstrate a willingness to work with the White House is not the path to take. Despite the support of many Republicans in the last Congress, this legislation, as it now stands, it just another one-sized fits all big government overhaul of a sector of the economy that is not broken. The government is here to help? Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
First there was Obamacare, then Dodd-Frank. Every time the politicians in Washington see a problem, instead of coming up with targeted fixes, they want to push through broad overhauls that change the parts of the system that are working right along with the parts they think need help – and always make things worse.
Our constitutionally protected patent system (Article 1, Section 8) is critical to promoting innovation and economic growth. Our founders knew that protecting intellectual property is just as important as physical property. Patent protection gives people the incentive to take risks and invest, knowing they will own their ideas and can profit from it.
There are valid concerns about the patent system and there are ways to advance specific and targeted reforms to deal with bad actors, frivolous lawsuits, etc… Unfortunately the current legislative proposals have not done that, they overhaul the entire system. Just like the other big government overhauls we have embarked on in recent years, this would target the whole incentive structure for innovation – with unintended consequences – rather than address specific areas needing reform.
Now, some conservatives have tried to justify support for these proposals as a form of tort reform. Undermining property rights is not tort reform. Patent litigation has already dropped 40% over the past year and the rate of patent lawsuits has averaged around 2% of all patents for decades. We’re going to undermine our fundamental rights to address a supposed litigation explosion that doesn’t exist and that supposedly advances tort reform. Conservatives should have no part of this.
Interestingly, the number one corporate cheerleader for patent reform has been Google. Let’s not forget how close the Obama administration is to Google. There has practically been a revolving door between the company and the White House. If you hate crony capitalism, then you should be worried about the administration and Congress acting so aggressively to overhaul the patent system to advance the financial interests of Google and others.
Strong patent protections are one of the key economic concepts that distinguishes us from nations like China, where Intellectual Property theft is rampant. Why would we support legislation that emulates their model? We should be protecting our inventors from theft and ensuring American innovation is on the cutting edge, not undermining property rights and surrendering our one key advantage to the Chinese.
A number of leading conservative organizations and legal scholars have expressed grave concerns about the consequences of this legislation. It makes no sense for conservatives to support legislation that stifles innovation, weakens property rights, surrenders our advantage to China and rewards Obama’s leading corporate supporters.
I have included a number of links below for opinion pieces by myself and other respected conservatives. I hope you find them helpful and hope you join me in opposing this big government patent overhaul.