Ranting on Congress: Not a Happy World IP Day in the US

UPDATED: 3:33pm Eastern Time

Happy World Intellectual Property Day! What, you didn’t buy a card or make dinner reservations? Did World Intellectual Property Day sneak up on you again this year? How could you let that happen? At a time when the United States Congress seems hell bent on destroying the patent system by inadequately funding the United States Patent and Trademark Office we really should celebrate something that seems to be functioning, so why not celebrate the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the innovation policies of nations who are stealing research and development away from the United States? What a tragedy that the World has better innovation policies than the United States.

So what is World Intellectual Property Day? In 2000, WIPO member states decided to designate a World Intellectual Property Day to raise awareness of the role of intellectual property in our daily lives, and to celebrate the contribution made by innovators and artists to the development of societies around the world. The date selected for celebrating World Intellectual Property Day was April 26, which was chosen because it was April 26, 1970 when the Convention establishing WIPO entered into force. So today also marks the 41st Anniversary of the establishment of WIPO.

This year’s World Intellectual Property Day celebrates the role of design in the market-place, in society and in shaping the innovations of the future. It is good to know that somewhere there is an agency that is concerned with innovations shaping the future, it is just too bad that it isn’t in the United States. In any event, across the world, IP Offices, associations, businesses and technology institutions have announced numerous activities to mark the day, including competitions, exhibitions and public discussions. It seems that the United States Congress choose to mark World Intellectual Property Day here in the United States by siphoning off $100 million from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (see Patent reforms derailed), requiring severe austerity measures to be put into place in order for the Office to have any chance of making it through the remainder of the fiscal year without furloughs.

Truthfully, as sad as this really is, there appear to be no scheduled events, celebrations or commemorations in the United States surrounding World Intellectual Property Day, which in and of itself speaks volumes.  For crying out loud even Syria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have some kind of events scheduled, but there is no mention of any U.S. celebration on the WIPO 2011 IP Activity Day page, and no mention that I can find on the USPTO website.  I guess innovation just doesn’t rate here in the U.S. any more.

Of course, who can blame the USPTO for not celebrating given they just told patent examiners that overtime is suspended (despite the ridiculously large patent backlog), there is a hiring freeze and much awaited for programs to speed the patent process have been placed on hold because Congress is taking user fees away from the USPTO to fund other things that are apparently far more important than innovation that leads to job creation.

For goodness sake, when are the folks in Washington, D.C., going to wake up?  We are languishing through a jobless recovery and many in Washington are talking about raising taxes?  Didn’t we just decide several months ago that at least for the time being we will hold off on that and work toward reinvigorating the U.S. economy and then have that debate when the economy is growing and people have jobs?  Litigate, re-litigate and re-litigate the litigation is what politics in D.C. are about, all the while people don’t have jobs and the one agency of the federal government that can create wealth and assets simply by acknowledging they exist is hamstrung by such a lack of funding that the agency cannot operate.

For crying out loud, patents are an asset that attract investment.  All the USPTO has to do is issue the damn things in a timely fashion, and they can’t even do that!  Issuing patents is their mission, that is the entire purpose for having a Patent Office, yet Congress is content with innovations remaining locked up for 5 to 10 years at the Patent Office.  An un-issued patent doesn’t do anyone any good.

The once mighty Patent Office is choking the economic recovery we could otherwise be having in the United States.  In fact, the Patent Office is like Frankenstein, who is following the instructions of Congress (playing the part of Dr. Frankenstein), squeezing the life right out of innovators.  Don’t even get me started with patent reform clearly favoring companies that are not innovators and foreign corporations that simply want to trample patent rights, but I digress.  Why is Congress ordering the Patent Office to stand in the way of innovation leading to recovery full of high paying, innovation based jobs?  Are they that clueless really?

So while the rest of the world celebrates World Intellectual Property Day we in the United State are starting to come to grips with the reality that Congress as a whole just does not care about innovation, or they think it happens through some mystical process in spite of anti-innovation and anti-business policies.

Whether it is intentional, as the result of ignorance or due to catering to lobbyists, it certainly does seem that Washington has contempt for innovators.  They act as if  innovation just happens.  There are plenty of scientific and business obstacles to innovating.  When you add in the unnecessary obstacles inserted into the process by Congress by way of a Patent Office that simply doesn’t have the resources to function, myopic tax policies and regulations that make it difficult to start a business, there is no great surprise that innovation is failing to create jobs.  Innovation is failing period as a result of government.

Notwithstanding, please do try and have a very happy, merry and/or prosperous World Intellectual Property Day!

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Immediately after publishing this article I received the following press release from Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. The Department of Commerce is not the culprit, and neither is the Patent Office. I have tremendous respect for Secretary Locke and Director Kappos, now if only their commitment would be matched by Congress!

In any event, here is the statement of Secretary Locke on World Intellectual Property Day:

“Innovation is at the heart of U.S. job creation, competitiveness and global strength, and today, in celebrating the 11th anniversary of World Intellectual Property Day, we are reminded of how critical intellectual property rights are to driving innovation and unleashing the ingenuity of the American people.

“In today’s competitive global economic climate, protecting and encouraging American innovation has never been more important. A strong intellectual property system enables successful inventors to secure access to capital and hire employees – creating new jobs, new industries and new economic opportunities for Americans.

“With patent reform legislation now being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives, we have the opportunity to modernize the U.S. intellectual property system and empower the United States Patent and Trademark Office to speed the movement of job-creating ideas to the marketplace. This administration continues to strongly support the bipartisan efforts of Congress to enact legislation that fosters innovation, promotes the growth and competitiveness of the U.S. economy and helps America win the future.”


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Join the Discussion

10 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Bobby]
    April 29, 2011 09:12 pm

    I’ll concede that, in practice, domestic firms tend to be favored, but said biases are by no means limited to patents, and those biases are not something it is wise to depend on, since they don’t actually exist in law, and are thus dependent on the particular judge or jury.

  • [Avatar for Anonymous]
    April 29, 2011 09:49 am

    I despise the word “Intellectual Property”. It’s invented by the British in another typical linguistic attempt to serve the interests of lawyers. It provides nothing but confusion to lay people. Of course, in the eye of the law, that’s irrelevant. The goons in our political system couldn’t figure out what actually serves the electorate, because those shills are all part of the same protectionist lawyer cabal. They are not idiots. Just Senators. They learn quickly after law school, when there is an inadequate law career opportunity, to try politics. Political paths take longer, but eventually you can just as effectively separate people from their wallets.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    April 28, 2011 06:32 pm


    You say: “A Chinese or German firm’s US patent has the same strength as a US firm’s US patent…”

    I have to disagree. All things being equal an American company that employs American workers will likely find a much more hospitable judicial process than the foreign corporation. Japanese companies have learned that over many, many years.


  • [Avatar for Bobby]
    April 28, 2011 03:05 pm

    Yes, but that’s not changing anything I said. The US market is protected by US patents, but it gives no advantage to US firms. For example, Nokia and Apple have both sued each other for patent infringement in the US smartphone market, and Apple doesn’t have an edge over Nokia simply because they are a US firm. US consumers don’t have an advantage either, because other markets get the same phones with far less of a threat of banning further imports or removing features that may infringe.

    US firms don’t have an advantage because the USPTO doesn’t discriminate on the country of the inventor, US customers don’t have an advantage, and the disclosure the US public acquires through the patent system is available to the world. So please point out where the benefit to the US relative to other countries in the US having a stronger patent system. If there was one, we would likely try to encourage China and other countries we want to out-innovate to not bother with patents and copyright, but our efforts appear to have be the very opposite.

  • [Avatar for Blind Dogma]
    Blind Dogma
    April 28, 2011 01:43 pm


    You do realize that a patent grant is a legal right that is native to the country granting the right, correct?

    Your ability to disregard law in favor of your dogmatic “ideals” is staggering.

  • [Avatar for Bobby]
    April 28, 2011 01:25 pm

    “it is an unstated but historical principle that the promotion of science and useful arts is not for the benefit of all mankind, but rather, for the benefit of this country.”
    I’m not sure if that principle can really be applied, since the benefit is knowledge, and there is no good reason (outside of security risks that would mean said information can’t be safely disclosed anyway) in trying to keep that knowledge inside our borders (and it would certainly be very difficult to do in this day and age.) Even If another country has no patent system, they can still read ALL of the US patents at the same time as the US public and apply the techniques within without enduring any of the social costs the US has to face, gaining all of the benefit without any of the cost. The current system isn’t really even capable of being protectionist within our borders, assuming an otherwise relatively level playing field. A Chinese or German firm’s US patent has the same strength as a US firm’s US patent, assuming both patents are otherwise equal.

    I’ll agree that we shouldn’t harmonize our laws just for the sake of harmonizing and the advantages a consistent system brings, but my reasons differ somewhat. We shouldn’t import laws that wouldn’t be good on their own because they wouldn’t be good on their own, we shouldn’t strong-arm foreign nations into adopting our laws, undermining their sovereignty, and we should call out any strong-arming that has been done to us.

  • [Avatar for Blind Dogma]
    Blind Dogma
    April 28, 2011 10:54 am

    The notion of “out innovating the world” would also require an understanding of the dichotomy of pursuing an agenda of “standardizing” the patent system with the rest of the world and of the history of patent systems in general – it is an unstated but historical principle that the promotion of science and useful arts is not for the benefit of all mankind, but rather, for the benefit of this country.

    While standarding brings economies of scale, an appreciation of the national competitiveness of patent systems drives in the opposite direction. If one truly wants the U.S. to have an advantage, patent reform would not be looking to the direction of what the rest of the world is doing merely because the rest of the world is doing that (no matter how hard the multi-national conglomerates push in that direction). Rather, U.S. policy should be aggressively (and selfishly) look to make the U.S. system benefit the U.S. above all others.

  • [Avatar for lulu393]
    April 28, 2011 09:25 am

    Didn’t Obama say that the US “needs to out innovate” the world? I guess he’s not really in favor of making that happen after the new budget he approved.

  • [Avatar for Brewer1056]
    April 26, 2011 08:48 pm

    I live in Venezuela. Every cd or DVD in every mall is a knockoff or pirated. What a joke.

  • [Avatar for jb]
    April 26, 2011 04:43 pm

    Agreed. Other countries are strengthening their IP rights, while the US continues to dilute IP rights here. We need some reforms, but like anything else in Washington, DC, they take things too far.