President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation

President Obama’s speech today focused on its newly formed “strategy for American innovation” — his “strategy to foster new jobs, new businesses, and new industries by laying the groundwork and the ground rules to best tap our innovative potential. . . . [R]ooted in a simple idea: that if government does its modest part, there’s no stopping the most powerful and generative economic force that the world has ever known, and that is the American people. . . . [Beginning with] the building blocks of innovation: education, infrastructure, research.”

The Administration’s policy paper focuses briefly on two aspects of intellectual property and patent law divided between a need for strong international enforcement and a call for reform of the US system.

Enforce our trade agreements to ensure access for American products abroad. Over the last eight years the enforcement of trade agreements slowed dramatically, with the United States bringing only an average of three WTO cases per year – as opposed to the approximately 11 annually from 1995 to 2001. In this era, the United States lost its focus on ensuring that other countries lived up to their promises to open their markets, not violate America’s intellectual property, and not use dumping or subsidies to penetrate America’s markets. Under President Obama, USTR and the Department of Commerce are committed to a new emphasis on enforcing our existing agreements.

Protect intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is to the digital age what physical goods were to the industrial age. We must ensure that intellectual property is protected in foreign markets and promote greater cooperation on international standards that allow our technologies to compete everywhere. The Administration is committed to ensuring that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has the resources, authority, and flexibility to administer the patent system effectively and issue high-quality patents on innovative intellectual property, while rejecting claims that do not merit patent protection.

The administration’s talking points on the USPTO link-in with Professor Rai’s calls for greater patent office power and autonomy – “ensuring that the [USPTO] has the resources, authority, and flexibility to administer the patent system efficiently.”

38 thoughts on “President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation

  1. Capping executive pay on Wall Street is just a sop to the public and not a serious policy response to the financial collapse. A serious policy response would see a few thousand bankers go to prison for misleading their employers about the risks they were taking, an increase in reserve requirements and the imposition of transparent accounting rules for derivatives.

  2. My answer to the Obama question would be that those investing in Silicon Valley are promoting real technological innovation, which is what humankind needs just to survive. Conversely, those Wall Street bankers are risking other people’s money, irresponsibly and for unimaginably high stakes, in mere casino games.

    But I know that answer will trouble you, because you don’t like “technical” as a litmus test.

  3. Obama doesn’t understand the reality of innovation and business development. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Obama asked “Why is it that we’re going to cap executive compensation for Wall Street bankers but not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs …..” Maybe because entrepreneurs mostly live or die by their own monies (or their investors), and don’t go running to Washington for trillion dollar bailouts for the failures. When you fail in Silicon Valley, you pause, lick your wounds, and then try again, with your own money or your investors.

    Obama’s appointment of academics to technology policy positions, especially those affecting the Patent Office, is a troubling omen that this Administration will mess up the Patent Office as much as the last one (though I doubt anyone can destroy PTO capabilities as much as Dudas did).

  4. Curious, I don’t understand. Is it you personally who is going to do all this “re-igniting” or will it be somebody else? Actually, the only facilitator who can do that is “Government”, right?

    Is anybody in favour of “bigger Government” though, in the more enlightened times in which they live today?

    BTW, I see that the defeatist wimp Business Week says that the “US business model” is “broken”. Wasn’t aware of that. Wholly unpatriotic of BW, wouldn’t you say?

  5. “community innovation” is one of those terms I like to bandy about that has a fuzzy, ill-defined but feel-good meaning. Socialists are fond of making up jargon and perverting the language you know.

    Please consult your local community apartchik or organizers for more details.

  6. First, enforcing our trade agreements will have either zero or a negative impact on innovation. Especially since the administration has made clear that enforcement efforts will be to protect domestic labor.

    Second, Section I of the white paper that talks about bubble driven growth also is not related to innovation. The housing bubble, financial firm leverage, infrastructure, and health care costs are not related to innovation. The tech bubble is mentioned, but that is it. Perhaps better grade school education will help innovation, but the connection tenuous.

    Third, what is “community innovation?”

    Fourth, if you want to “promote competitive markets that spur entrepreneurship” and you think that “open capital markets that allocate resources to the most promising ideas” are good policy, then how is protectionism a rational policy choice? Hint: it’s not.

    Finally, I just want to say that I am in favor of all those policies that everybody likes, and I am against all those policies that everybody hates.

  7. Enforce trade agreements; protect intellectual property rights; and get rid of the loafer known as “6″ who thinks atoms fall out of wires.

  8. “Can one sue the Director for a patent in a district court outside of Washington, D.C.?”

    That is a great question Ken, I believe I thought of it myself just a couple of weeks ago. I believe that I found that the answer was no although I have forgotten the resource which led me to believe this.

    “Sure, maybe we now know those aren’t worthwhile,”

    But then again, maybe we don’t know that. What if the gov. locked away all the good research results and we’re assaultin’ the Taliban with psychics? Ooooo spooky!

    On the other hand, the lack of a plan in Iraq would lead one to believe that Gee Dubbaya did not have good psychics on his payroll.

  9. FWIW, I oppose strong enforcement of America’s intellectual property in nations subject to authoritarian regimes, at least with respect to America’s intellectual property rights like movie and book copyrights of a cultural nature.

    Stopping copyright infingements in these regimes in a commercially meaningful way is an iffy proposition even with great cooperation, and IP enforcement provides these regimes with an excuse to crack down on dissidents who could not obtain access to these cultural materials legitimately due to local censorship.

    In fact, in these countries, the local impact of Western cultural properties may provide critical support for our own national security interest in a more democratic, intellectually open and Western leaning rank and file population, through the soft power of these ideas, than we could achieve through military force or diplomatic action at any price.

    Rather than characterizing the people making unauthorized distribution of American cultural properties in authoritarian regimes as pirates, we should issue them the moral equivalent of letters of marque and reprisal, or consider them to be missionaries converting people over to the American way of thinking in the tradition of Voice of America radio and the BBC International Service. The Saudi Arabians did this in Afghanistan and came very close to installing the friendly Taliban regime in Afghanistan as a result. We would want to instill different values, but part of why the U.S. isn’t doing as well as it might geopolitically is a failure to purposefully propogate its ideas in new places.

    The recent Internet/Twitter mediated unrest in the wake of election fraud in Iran illustrates the kind of potential of a pro-piracy policy in these areas to secure massive positive social change.

    If we are concerned about the losses this policy would impose on the industry, we could compensate IP owners (mostly a few dozen companies such as publishers, record companies and movie studios, who could resolve their relative shares by arbitration) based upon current aggregate royalty revenues from these countries for cultural IP properties.

  10. “with perhaps one exception being the projects funded under the auspices of DARPA. ”

    DARPA shouldn’t really be held as an example of quality allocation. High risk/high reward projects means that a lot of funding that goes to DARPA does nothing other than to establish that certain high risk research is worthless. I understand that in the 80s they spent a lot of time and money investigating the scientific merits of psychic and telekinetic abilities in humans.

    Sure, maybe we now know those aren’t worthwhile, but that’s not exactly a great return on investment.

  11. Robert K S | Sep 22, 2009 at 01:29 PM

    Well familiar with the SBIR program, but my comment was generally directed to higher level research of the type as is generally performed under the auspices of DARPA (Formerly DARPA, the ARPA, and now back to DARPA).

    DARPA projects are generally not specific to the individual military branches. I am not at all certain this is the case with the SBIR program.

    Again, my point was merely to note that the private sector is not as woefully deficient in its allocation of R&D as the document would have people believe.

  12. “What if I just want a “regular quality” patent? Are those no longer available? I don’t think that I can afford a “high quality” one.”

    Prospective,

    The good news is that the law provides for “regular” quality patents. See 35 USC 112.

    The bad news is that the US Patent Office taketh away your rights to such things by sucking you dry of money under the guise of “efficient” (compact) prosecution.

  13. Purveyor, he wasn’t pointing out your use of illiterate, but of technically.

    You meant to say technologically. As in not “literate in a technical sense”, but “literate in a technology sense”.

  14. “Illiterate”…

    I make no claim to having superior typing skills. However, I stand firmly behind the general tenor of my comment.

    Having dealt extensively with the federal bureaucracy on matters such as this for more years than I dare to count, I never ceased to be amazed at the patronizing attitude (exemplified by this article) it has toward the private sector in matters involving the allocation of R&D funds.

    Quite frankly, whenever I see the term “Go Green” I hold my wallet even tighter than normal because history teaches me that to “Go Green” is little more than a precursor to yet another raid on my wallet.

    Given the choice between placing my faith in the expertise of those residing within the Beltway and those who are experts within private industry, I will opt for the latter…with perhaps one exception being the projects funded under the auspices of DARPA.

  15. “One of the longest running trade actions – against ball bearings from multiple sources – has only served to prejudice American companies that use ball bearings in manufacturing their products.”

    It’s all ball bearing these days. Don’t tell me my business.

  16. “I think we still have a few of those left, but there’s a big push for us to not carry that product line any longer.”

    You could always try eBay ;)

  17. “6, why do you need to hire people? Once you declare all innovation without merit and property of the public, why do you need a patent office?”

    Where have I stated or implied either of the things you just brought up?

    “What if I just want a “regular quality” patent? Are those no longer available?”

    I think we still have a few of those left, but there’s a big push for us to not carry that product line any longer. For more information on the big push you can submit inquiries to Noise.

  18. What if I just want a “regular quality” patent? Are those no longer available? I don’t think that I can afford a “high quality” one.

  19. “On the other hand, you guys should be really happy about him probably backing giving us some $ if we really need em to avoid laying off people etc.”

    Unfortunately it’s not an inelastic demand situation at this point. Filers have substitutes- e.g., trade secret protection- which this economic depression has made a lot more attractive. The PTO appears to get overly swayed by a handful of big volume filers who indicate they are relatively price elastic. However, if you don’t examine in one of their areas, i suggest keeping the parachute handy if the PTO jacks up the user fees.

  20. 6, why do you need to hire people? Once you declare all innovation without merit and property of the public, why do you need a patent office?

    Considering you’re posting on here at 8:45am EST, I see some dead weight to cut since we’re not issuing patents anymore anyway.

  21. Executive branch, meet Legislative branch.
    Executive branch, meet Judicial branch.

    Administer the Law, meet Make the Law.

  22. Man, my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss makes himself pretty clear.

    “United States Patent and Trademark Office has the resources, authority, and flexibility to administer the patent system ”

    Have more beautiful words ever been spoken by a man?

    On the other hand, you guys should be really happy about him probably backing giving us some $ if we really need em to avoid laying off people etc.

  23. “Protect intellectual property rights. Intellectual property is to the digital age what
    physical goods were to the industrial age. We must ensure that intellectual property is
    protected in foreign markets and promote greater cooperation on international standards
    that allow our technologies to compete everywhere. The Administration is committed to
    ensuring that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has the resources, authority,
    and flexibility to administer the patent system effectively and issue high-quality patents
    on innovative intellectual property, while rejecting claims that do not merit patent
    protection.”

    I get nervous when someone starts talking about “quality” and “deserving” (meriting) to get a patent without clearly defining terms.

    The US Patent code (35 USC) already defines the statutory requirements for meriting a patent. When a presidential patent czar steps in to usurp the powers of Congress and to redefine what is meritorious, we should all start getting nervous.

  24. And another thing. If you really want to advance science and the useful arts, maybe the Federal Government should stop monopolizing the top 5% of the minds of the US. They did this throughout the entire cold war. These minds were released for a very brief period of U.S. history commencing about 1989 and ending when Bush 43 ramped-up the military industrial complex again. Now the american people are again faced with the Federal Government consuming the resources of the states . . . for most of these bright people were educated with State money used to fund state universities and colleges.

  25. Personally, I find this piece of “self-laudatory” comments to be little more than “tripe”.

    It has as one of its premises that government sponsorship of R&D is necessary to redirect the private sector into areas the administration deems important. Of course, in the process it overlooks that the private sector has been heavily involved in these areas for decades, and significant R&D has been allocated by private sector companies.

    Sorry, but once again I am left with the definite conviction that technically illeterate elitists seriously believe they have all the answers, and that our economic progress will be facilitated by government oversight.

    Did I say “tripe”? I am sorry. What I meant to say is that “in our country we clearly have no shortage of fools”.

  26. There is only one way to adequately spur innovation, President Lincoln knew it, President Kennedy knew it and President Jackson knew it. The impact of private bankers on the United States monetary system must be neutralized. All interest paid on money created in our economy should and must inure to the benefit of the United States Government only.

  27. So far the Obama administrations trade actions in putting a surge tariff on tires from China will simply result in a dead weight loss to the American economy.

    One of the longest running trade actions – against ball bearings from multiple sources – has only served to prejudice American companies that use ball bearings in manufacturing their products.

    The American use of “zeroing” has put it at odds with the rest of the world.

    It would be nice to see Obama move the US to intellectually honest trade enforcement that was not simply pandering to domestic special interests at the expense of the good of the country.

  28. “The Administration is committed to ensuring that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has the resources, authority, and flexibility to administer the patent system effectively and issue high-quality patents on innovative intellectual property, while rejecting claims that do not merit patent protection.”

    PS: I’m pretty sure they’ve taken plenty of authority for themselves to take care of that whole “rejecting claims that do merit patent protection” thing.

  29. Yes, more federal government power and unaccountability is EXACTLY what the doctor ordered.

    Look how much it has helped our financial system, our car companies, our oil exploration companies…

    Does anyone else remember when the government just set up the framework? Remember that quaint notion of “America”?

  30. I suggest that two or three “manufacturing centers” be set up at different key locations in the U.S. Each would be sponsored by a different consortium of our top engineering universities. Each would offer graduate degrees in manufacturing engineering. Each would have top flight manufacturing facilities and equipment available to the professors, the students and businesses. Each would be sponsored by the universities, businesses, states and the federal government.

  31. Unfortunately, 100,000 K-12 teachers have lost their jobs in the past year.

    And the states and local governments are so bankrupt that they will not be replacing those jobs any time soon. A second federal stimulus package is needed.

    “Some L.A. Unified classes are crammed with about 50 students, leaving some pupils to sit on desks or the floor and their teachers to grade hundreds of papers while still focusing on improvement.”

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