Intellectual property (IP) has become a significant factor in productivity and economic growth. Strong and effective IP protection is a particularly powerful incentive for firms to invest in generating new technology in sectors where the returns to technological investment are very long term, involve high risks and are easy to copy. Intellectual property protection is one the core enabling conditions for creativity, innovation and development of the information society and digital economy. The technology industry depends on sound patent systems worldwide to protect IP rights and enable the development and deployment of new technologies. Copyright, patents, trade secrets, licensing, and other forms of intellectual property protection are part of the legal framework of our nation. Companies simply will not, and cannot, invest the resources necessary to bring new innovations to market if competitors that do not bear the costs and uncertainty of those investments are free to introduce copies.
How intellectual property is treated globally in these various business interactions will ultimately shape the future of the technology industry. As a result, addressing concerns related to intellectual property rights – for owners and consumers alike – is of paramount importance to legislators.
Updating copyright and intellectual property laws to meet the challenges of the networked environment has been a key focus for Congress, the courts, and state legislatures for many years. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, peer-to-peer file sharing and digital rights management, legislation to create additional protections for databases, the Stop Online Piracy Act, the Protect IP Act, orphan works, and more have continued to dominate the public policy agenda.
TechAmerica believes that intellectual property protection is essential to promoting innovation and investment in new technologies and that licensing this property is pro-competitive. The ability to create and innovate free from disputes over intellectual property is essential to the technology industry. IP rights provide a further impetus to innovation in that they require an inventor who seeks time-limited protection to publish the knowledge embodied in a product or process. IP rights are a market-based mechanism for disseminating knowledge and spurring competition. We continue to believe that IP rights are essential to economic development and to the encouragement of investment. It is therefore critical that minimum standards for IP protection are implemented and enforced worldwide.
Computer related inventions are essential tools for businesses and the backbone of several industries. The question of IP protection for computer-implemented inventions, including software, is therefore of singular importance to the business community worldwide. Because patents provide an incentive for innovation by encouraging investment in R&D and promoting the dissemination of technology through the publication of patents, TechAmerica believes that technologically innovative companies should be able to obtain patents to protect their inventions without discrimination as to the technological field. In assessing the value of IP protection in fostering innovation, we believe that it is critical that our industry has the legal certainty required on patent rights, a substantial reduction in costs, prompt patent examination and continued efforts to ensure the highest levels of IP protection and enforcement world-wide. Private sector innovation can further be supported by reducing the costs of acquiring, maintaining and enforcing IP rights. Nondiscriminatory trade regimes conducive to full market access for IP protected products throughout the world are also a prerequisite to innovation.
While the WTO serves to ensure that all countries meet minimum obligations to protect and enforce IP rights, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the OECD also play a critical role in setting standards and ensuring that IP protection is a positive force for innovation and the development of technology. We support the provisions of technical assistance to countries globally, on both a bilateral and multilateral basis, to improve the quality of patent examination, to establish domestic (or regional) patent and trademark offices and to train police, judicial and customs officials in the enforcement of IP rights. In addition, positive action by government officials towards eliminating counterfeit and imitation goods is also of the utmost importance. Counterfeiting is a serious threat to legitimate commerce, as well as to public health and safety. While substantive IP laws have become more comprehensive and widespread, enforcement still remains the weak link to effective IP protection in many countries. Close collaboration between the authorities, professional organizations and rightholders is essential to achieve optimum effectiveness of enforcement.
TechAmerica supports robust IP protection balanced with necessary rights and exceptions to facilitate technological innovation. We support industry-led initiatives to establish appropriate digital rights management technologies that protect content providers while preserving the rights of the consuming public to enjoy their legitimate expectations as to home recording and other fair uses. TechAmerica continues to advocate for the federal government to abstain from legislating in areas where there is no evidence of market failure. We support responsible restructuring of the U.S .Patent & Trademark Office that reflects a commitment to full-funding, the hiring and training of enough qualified examiners at pay scales competitive with the private sector, and electronic filing of patent and trademark applications.
TechAmeica is a leading advocate of strong intellectual property protection. We have been very active with copyright issues that have a very direct effect on the technology industry. The 2012 legislative season began with a major battle over the appropriate response to online piracy and the theft of intellectual property using the Internet. TechAmerica defended the technology industry during the PROTECT-IP/SOPA (Hollywood drafted legislation which largely shifted the costs for protecting content to the technology industry) debate. In addition to several visits to the Hill, we hosted a number of roundtables with members of Congress, sent an important letter to Congress on the matter and provided comments and support for a solution to various Congressional staff members.
TechAmerica hosted a roundtable at our Santa Clara, CA office with Patent and Trade Office (PTO) Director David Kappos to discuss intellectual property issues including patent reform and concerns over the proposed SOPA bill. In addition, TechAmerica and our member companies met with Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, to voice our concerns on SOPA and online piracy issues. Internet providers successfully halted momentum of the legislation by the film and music industries to enact tough civil liability and other sanctions on operators of web sites that are used as a medium to violate intellectual property. However, those who were in favor of such legislation have already publicly vowed to come back with new legislation and to enhance their tactics for the next battle. We will continue to fight for stakeholder involvement in crafting the right solution to an obvious problem, asking that lawmakers be fully educated on the intended and unintended consequences of any proposal, and will insist that wholesale cost shifting from one industry to another is not an appropriate role for Congress. While there is broad consensus on the problem at hand, it is unlikely that the competing interests will be resolved this year.
TechAmerica’s Intellectual Property Sub-Committee reviews, discusses and promotes policies that balance the advancement of technological innovation and the protection of intellectual property. A key focus of this sub-committee is exploring possible solutions to the “patent troll” problem. The sub-committee generally meets quarterly, typically by phone, but ad hoc meetings can and do occur periodically.