One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Government is just another organism. Just like any other other organism, its first priority is self-preservation. Its second – is to grow. The most it possibly can. It wants to be bigger, do more – control more.
There are more than four million humans who work in just the federal government. Most of them see preserving and growing government as in their interest. And see those who want Less Government as the enemy.
(As just one recent example, see: the Internal Revenue Service [IRS] assaults on conservative non-profit groups.)
The allure of the More Government mantra is strong – too strong for most of the humans who join the Borg. Even for many of the allegedly Less Government Republican Party – they too too often succumb to More Government’s siren song.
So it sadly is with Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte – and his attempts at patent “reform.” His alleged “fix” – the Innovation Act – is a enormous government hammer. Created to swat – a gnat.
The gnat in question is what More Government advocates have dubbed “patent trolls.” But we must keep in mind:
(W)hat exactly is a “patent troll?” He or she is someone who owns a patent – which is private property. And is trying to protect their private property from unauthorized use by someone who doesn’t want to pay to use it.
Is someone who owns a house and calls the police to roust squatters a “property troll?” Is someone who reports their car stolen an “automobile troll?”
So it’s a gnat that in many instances – is lawfully engaged in defense of what’s his. Government isn’t supposed to be eradicating this behavior – it’s supposed to be leading the charge in defense of it. Per Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution:
The Congress shall have Power To…promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries….
There are some gnats that use questionable patents and shotgun harassment demand letters to try to extract money from businesses. The original sin there – is the government issuing an improper patent. Most of any “reform” should be applied there.
Most patent holders are just trying to rightly protect their property.
If government is going to try to pick and choose which patent gnats in the swarm to swat – they’d best choose a highly precise instrument. The Innovation Act ain’t it.
Congressman Goodlatte is a good guy – he seems to realize this. So he’s swung wide open the door to amendments – which has created a swarm of its own.
But it’s time he move past the pride of authorship – and realize there are much better bills already out there. Ready to go – and enact the reform to which just about everyone agrees. And only the reform to which just about everyone agrees.
This is not fundamental transformation. It specifically reforms demand letter abuse – without total system disruption.
It gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to deal with bad demand letter writers – on an a la carte basis. The FTC examines each case as it comes – rather then preemptive, all-encompassing legislation where every single patent holder trying to protect their intellectual property is assumed to be acting in bad faith.
And that’s about it.….
This isn’t fundamental transformation either. It reforms demand letter abuse – and cleans up some previous DC mistakes.
The last patent reform bill – the America Invents Act – established overly broad standards for when and how patents can be challenged at the patent office. This bill tightens them.
And it uses the TROL Act language that ends abusive demand letters.
Scalpels – not massive hammers. Minor government tweaking – not massive new government intrusions.
Let’s do Less Government – for a change.