Patent News

Feb. 5, 2015 A License to Steal, by Thomas Schatz

This post originally appeared in on February 5, 2015.

Life sometimes imitates fiction. James Bond had a “license to kill.” There are some individuals and nations that believe they have a “license to steal” intellectual property (IP), which can kill innovation.

While patent litigation reform and the June 19 Supreme Court decision regarding business methods and abstract ideas have dominated IP news in 2014, the most serious challenges to patents lie overseas. Several countries, particularly China, have been departing from international IP norms by undermining patents to the extent that they are essentially taking them from their owners in order to pursue domestic economic goals. Therefore, strong protection of patents both in the U.S. and globally is now more critical than ever. And in order to clearly convey this message, legislators must not move any bills during the 114th Congress that would undermine the nation’s robust patent system.

One of the reasons for the aggressive attacks on U.S. patents is that these countries know that IP is essential to economic success. According to the Global Intellectual Property Center, in 2012 IP was responsible for more than 55 million jobs in the U.S. A report released by Economists Incorporated on November 12, 2014 found that patents and other intellectual property constitute approximately 55 percent of U.S. GDP, and intangible assets including corporate IP and brand recognition account for 80 percent of the value of U.S. public companies. The report also cited innovative methods of patent licensing that could add up to $200 billion in new growth to the U.S. economy, since 95 percent of patents currently do not generate any licensing revenue.

On November 17, 2014, Citizens Against Government Waste released Intellectual Property: Making it Personal, which includes several examples of how IP theft adversely impacts innovators. Beyond the individual stories, the book also highlights how China is using its six year-old anti-monopoly law to curtail IP rights and promote industrial policy, which adversely impacts entire companies, not just individual innovators.