Republicans have been in control of both ends of Capitol Hill for nearly four months and one would be hard-pressed to notice any change. Apart from votes on Keystone and overtures to tax reform, most lawmakers have adopted a status quo, business as usual attitude. It’s frustrating but not entirely unpredictable.
In the innovation sector, however, some Republicans have cozied up to Obama’s campaign contributors and to big business and have sold out small inventors and entrepreneurs by embracing a proposed overhaul of the U.S. patent system.
The so-called Innovation Act is a gift to large, multi-national tech giants seeking to weaken the intellectual property rights found in our Constitution. And, rather than speak up against this monstrosity, many conservatives have embraced what I believe is the equivalent of Obamacare for innovation.
[M]embers of the House Judiciary Committee [held] a hearing on this legislation as they try to move forward in pushing through revisions to our patent system, which our Founding Fathers included in the Constitution. Unfortunately, many of my fellow Republicans are helping to lead the charge for this legislation that I and many conservatives, legal experts and inventors, believe will undermine this fundamental protection of our property rights.
I’m sure the opportunity to get cozy with the deep pockets in Silicon Valley has some allure to conservative politicians seeking to advance their political careers. But at what cost? Need I remind you that many of the companies and people pushing for this “reform” were instrumental in electing and re-electing Barack Obama?
Conservatives are now bowing at the altar of big business and embracing cronyism at the expense of innovators and property rights, and they are doing it under the guise of helping American innovation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately it seems, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
With former executives of this legislation’s biggest beneficiaries (Google, for example) now stationed throughout the Administration, it’s no wonder the White House supports a giant patent overhaul. Doing the bidding of powerful companies in such a way, will come at a price to small inventors who will have harder time defending their Intellectual Property and in attracting capital. This legislation makes it more difficult for them to protect their ideas, and therefore, to innovate.
Some conservatives say they are supporting this bill because it’s a form of tort reform. This is not tort reform. In the area of intellectual property, the only recourse small inventors have to protect their ideas from being stolen are the courts. Constitutional conservatives understand that we cannot make it harder, or nearly impossible, for Americans to defend their property rights.
Like most big government solutions (remember Obamacare and Dodd-Frank?), big businesses are leading the charge because they benefit. As Carly Fiorina, the former chairwoman of Hewlett-Packard, pointed out, “watch carefully who is supporting that legislation. It’s not the small it’s the big. It’s the big companies whose ongoing economic benefit depends upon their ability to acquire innovations and patents at a lower cost.”
The big boys will do just fine after the next comprehensive reform, but What options will small inventors have?
To say I’m disturbed by how eager some conservatives on Capitol Hill are to rush into support for legislation like this and cozy up to big business at the expense of American innovation is an understatement. Simply put, the rationale for this legislation is unsupported by reality.
Nothing good can come from quick, big government fixes implemented at the behest of big business.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union, and on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.