At this year’s IPI World IP Day Celebration, IPI was honored to host Congressman Doug Collins, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, who called for simplifying intellectual property policy.
“We make intellectual property too hard sometimes,” he said. “We make it ethereal, it’s out there in the realm, only the experts know how to talk about it.”
I thought I was already cynical enough. I guess I was wrong.
Over the years I’ve seen elected Republican politicians telling voters about how strongly they stood for “free-market principles” and then vote in ways that are completely contrary to those principles. I’ve seen it so many times that I didn’t think I could be surprised.
But I was wrong.
New legislation before the Texas legislature wrongly assumes that private sector use of eminent domain is more problematic than government use.
In his March 4 testimony before the Texas state affairs committee regarding SB 421, IPI president Tom Giovanetti pointed out the troubling assumption underlying the bill—that there is something wrong or potentially abusive about allowing the private sector to use eminent domain.
Last Thursday I attended the release reception for the 2019 edition of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index, which is produced by the Chamber’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC). The Pugatch Concilium does the research and writes the report, under the direction of my friend, Meir Pugatch. It was great to see Meir again after several years.
The Index is an attempt to rank 50 countries based on their IP systems, under the assumption that stronger IP protections are positive for encouraging innovation and investment in a country. Many studies have demonstrated that higher levels of IP protection correspond with higher levels of foreign direct investment and the resultant economic growth, and the Index also contains some of that data.
The Index also contains a section talking about general international IP trends, which in general are not good. While some developing countries are seizing the advantage of stronger IP protection (India, Brazil, Argentina), many countries are undermining IP protection (Chile, Colombia, Peru, Russia).
In the US, which has been slipping in the rankings because of some unfortunate Supreme Court decisions and the PTAB process at the Patent Office that has been cynically abused to invalidate patents, things have turned back up. The new USMCA trade agreement (as yet not adopted or implemented) increases IP protection, but the major fact that lifted the US from 12th place to 2nd place in the patents ranking is the change at the top of the U.S. Patent Office. New Director of the Patent Office Andrei Iancu has implemented significant, pro-patent procedures throughout the Office but especially in the PTAB process, which has restored the process to something approaching its original intent, instead of the abusive way it operated under the previous USPTO regime.
The problem with such improvements, of course, is that they are easily undone by a future administration, which means we still need legislation like the Stronger Patents Act to use the force of law to either eliminate the PTAB process, or lock-in the higher standards imposed by Director Iancu. Such legislation should reverse some of the recent Supreme Court patent decisions as well.
After meeting with U.S. officials in Beijing this week, China is in turn expected to send delegates to Washington for continued trade talks.
IPI’s Dr. Merrill Matthews joined a panel on CGTN’s The Heat to discuss whether these meetings are laying hopes for a resolution on trade.
Amid rising tensions in U.S.-China trade, IPI resident scholar Dr. Merrill Matthews joined CGTN America’s The Heat where he noted that China’s retaliatory tariffs are indeed highly targeted toward likely supporters of President Trump, while the U.S.-imposed tariffs are hammering all American consumers and the opposite of “draining the swamp.”
Ronald Reagan was fond of reminding us of a fundamental economic truth: “If you want less of something, tax it.”
Of course, President Reagan wasn’t referring to broadband infrastructure at the time. But his observation is no less true in today’s digital economy. In fact, since the earliest days of the commercial internet back in the ‘90s, a bipartisan consensus in Congress has recognized the universal truth of President Reagan’s warning and worked to ensure that local taxes and fees didn’t become an impediment to the build-out of our national broadband infrastructure.
Congress enshrined this prohibition against local taxes on broadband in the bipartisan Internet Tax Freedom Act. Similarly, the Cable Act provides a national framework that encourages network deployment by limiting the power of local governments to impose investment-killing fees.
The success of this light-touch framework is self-evident. Since 1996, broadband providers have invested $1.6 trillion to build out our nation’s broadband infrastructure, deploying high-speed networks at a pace that far exceeds what European countries have managed. And while there are clearly deployment gaps still to be closed – particularly in rural America – the urgent necessity of closing these gaps argues even more strenuously for continuing to heed President Reagan’s warning.
But as sure as the sun rises in the East, there will always be high-tax local jurisdictions eager to treat private sector investments as their own personal piggy bank to be raided to fund big-spending government budgets. Despite the obvious historic success of the federal prohibition on internet taxes and fees – and despite the fact that world-class broadband infrastructure is increasingly become table stakes for any local community that hopes to thrive in the digital age – some localities have challenged the bipartisan pro-investment consensus in court.
Faced with these legal challenges, the FCC is about to kick off a proceeding to clarify its policies limiting how local jurisdictions can use local franchising laws to impose taxes and fees on broadband providers. We strongly urge Commissioners to defend the longstanding, bipartisan consensus pre-empting state and local efforts to add new fees or obstacles to broadband investment.
Make no mistake about it: The internet is an interstate service. Networks – and the packet of data that fly across them at the speed of light – don’t stop at state lines. If ever a technology existed that met the Constitutional definition of “interstate commerce”, it’s the internet. That means it’s up to federal policymakers to defend the (wildly successful) national pro-deployment framework against attacks from local jurisdictions more interested in grabbing a few short-term bucks.
As a nation, we want more broadband investment. It’s one of the few things Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on. So the FCC should remember President Reagan’s wise advice and preempt local governments from adding taxes and fees that will discourage the very investment we all agree is needed.