Intellectual Property

Steal These Policies: Strategies for Reducing Digital Piracy

December 15, 2009
| Reports

It is time for the U.S. government to take global theft of U.S. intellectual property, especially digital content, much more seriously. A new ITIF report finds that the U.S. government can and should do more to support industry efforts to reduce digital piracy, a growing problem that threatens not only the robust production of digital content, but U.S. jobs. While there are no “silver bullets” to reducing digital piracy, there are a number of “lead bullets” that can and should be implemented. Specifically, ITIF calls on the federal government to not preclude those impacted by digital piracy, including copyright holders and ISPs, from taking steps, including implementing technical controls like digital fingerprinting, to reduce piracy. In addition, industry and government should consider bold steps to limit the revenue streams of those profiting from piracy by encouraging ISPs, search engines, ad networks and credit card companies to block piracy websites and refuse to do business with them. These options should be part of a broad dialogue that engages all stakeholders, including government, content owners, website operators, technology developers, and ISPs and other intermediaries, on how to improve the global response to piracy. Toward that end, this report recommends that policymakers:

  • Support, rather than impede, anti-piracy innovation, including the development of new technical means.
  • Encourage coordinated industry action to take steps to fight digital piracy, such as ISP implementation of graduated response systems.
  • More actively pursue international frameworks and action to protect intellectual property, including digital content.

Video Blog: America Has Much to Learn About Digital Piracy

November 18, 2009

The US loses about $20 billion a year on pirated software, movies, and music. But public policy can help stem the tide of digital theft. For example, France has recently passed a 'three strikes and you’re out' law, whereby if after two warning letters an individual continues to download pirated software then his Internet access will be cut off. US policy makers should consider adopting similar policies.

Combating Unfair Trade Practices in the Innovation Economy

May 22, 2008
| Testimony and Filings

In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, ITIF President Rob Atkinson described the growing array of mercantilist trade policies that nations have enacted to unfairly disadvantage foreign – including U.S. – technology products. This new wave of protectionism, which is designed to unfairly erode U.S. technology leadership, includes a range of policies – from discriminatory taxes and tariffs to efforts to block market access – that run counter to the spirit of mutually-beneficial free trade. To combat these practices, Atkinson expressed support for the Trade Enforcement Act of 2007 currently under consideration, and argued further for the enactment of a 25 percent tax credit for corporate expenditures related to bringing WTO cases to fight mercantilist practices. Stronger trade enforcement promises not only to help American workers and firms, but also ensures that the United States continues to lead the world in supporting an international free trade regime that will bring robust and sustainable prosperity, both domestically and abroad.

Copyright, Content and Class Action Lawsuits: A Debate on the Google Book Search Settlement

April 21, 2009 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm
The Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building
LJ 162
Washington, DC
20005

When Google began its initiative in 2004 to digitize 15 million books within a decade from university and public libraries, the project was met with immediate resistance by some authors and publishers who objected to the decision to include books still protected under copyright. Read more »

Copyright, Content and Class Action Lawsuits: A Debate on the Google Book Search Settlement

April 21, 2009
Video from the event.

When Google began its initiative in 2004 to digitize 15 million books within a decade from university and public libraries, the project was met with immediate resistance by some authors and publishers who objected to the decision to include books still protected under copyright. The Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild of America sued Google for copyright infringement while Google defended its Google Book Search service saying that the project should be considered fair use. Read more »

See video

Promoting Platform Parity: Equal Pay for Equal Music

March 4, 2009
| Reports

Webcasters have faced inequity in the copyright royalty system for years. Two years ago ITIF suggested that the entire idea behind the statutory license was fundamentally flawed. Is it right to assign every piece of music the same value? While this type of one-size-fits-all agreement might have made sense in a pre-Internet era, it is an anachronism in today’s digital world.

In this WebMemo, ITIF Senior Analyst Daniel Castro argues that Congress should promote technology neutral policies that do not unfairly advantage or disadvantage any particular technology or business model. Moreover, Congress should ensure that the rules and regulations governing the royalty rate setting process are fair and reasonable for all broadcast platforms. As Congress considers “The Performance Rights Act,” a bill to eliminate the exemption on performance royalties that terrestrial radio has enjoyed for years, it should keep these principles in mind.

The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property

June 7, 2007 - 9:00am - 10:30am
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
1250 Eye Street, NW, Suite 200
Room 2
Washington, DC
20005

The Gowers Review, published on December 6, 2006, confirmed the crucial importance of IP to the success of the United Kingdom in the global knowledge economy. Read more »

Patents Pending: Patent Reform for the Innovation Economy

May 22, 2007 - 9:00am - 10:00am
Rayburn House Office Building
Room 2226
Washington, DC
20005

Congress is in the midst of the patent reform debate. Recently introduced legislation “The Patent Reform Act of 2007” (S. 1145 and H.R. 1908), would provide significant needed reforms to the system. Read more »

Patents Pending: Patent Reform for the Innovation Economy

May 22, 2007
| Reports

For most Americans, knowledge of the U.S. patent system is limited to seeing the words "patent pending" on the back of a product or reading in the morning paper that their BlackBerry might stop working due to a patent lawsuit. Notwithstanding its opacity, the U.S. patent system provides key economic incentives that spur innovation by giving patent owners a temporary property right to their inventions while at the same time requiring them to disclose their patents to the public. Yet it is cases like the Network Technology Partners (NTP) lawsuit against Research in Motion (RIM-the maker of the BlackBerry) that have brought the patent system's deficiencies into the public eye. It suffers from three key problems.

First, the U.S. patent system is rife with delay. With over 700,000 pending patent applications in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), it can take 4 years to get a patent. As demand for patents has increased, resources at the PTO have not kept up.

Second, as the RIM case and countless others illustrate, the PTO has issued too many poor quality patents. Lack of sufficient PTO resources has contributed to patent examiners granting questionable patents that are overly broad and overlap with existing patents. Examiners have no more time to review patent applications than they had in the 1970s, even though the technology being patented is much more complex.

Questionable patents contribute to the third problem-the dramatic increase in patent litigation and awards, which impose a significant tax on the U.S. innovation system. Patent litigation increased 120 percent between 1990 and 2005 (while civil litigation in general rose just 5 percent). At the same time, damage awards have grown, providing windfalls to some patent holders at the expense of consumers who must pay higher prices for goods and services. For example, RIM felt compelled to settle with NTP for $612 million, despite the fact that many experts believe NTP's patents are invalid. If RIM had passed its settlement fees to the 7 million Blackberry users, each user would have paid a surcharge of nearly $90.

Addressing these problems does not require wholesale change in the U.S. patent system. In many respects it has significant strengths. Moreover, the PTO has been making strides to improve the system, including increasing hiring, patent examiner pay, and training, as well as encouraging applicants to provide more information about previous inventions (called "prior art").

Notwithstanding these changes, reforms to the patent system are needed. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced "The Patent Reform Act of 2007" (S. 1145 and H.R. 1908) that would provide significant needed reforms.

Additionally, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) proposes certain targeted reforms-some of which are in the current legislation and some are not-that can make the U.S. patent system even better and in so doing enable the U.S. innovation system to be more effective. The ITIF's recommendations in this paper are not meant to be a comprehensive treatise on patent reform. Rather they focus on two key areas we think deserve particular attention: those that will improve pre-grant activity at the PTO and those that influence post-grant review in the Courts. To do that:

Congress should facilitate improvements in pre-grant activity at the PTO by:

  • Statutorily ending the diversion of patent fees to the U.S. Treasury,
  • Giving the PTO regulatory authority to raise fees,
  • Requiring third parties submitting prior art to include statements of relevance, and
  • Creating a post-grant opposition process to be conducted by the PTO.

Congress' actions will enable the PTO to improve the pre-grant process by:

  • Hiring significantly more patent examiners to reduce the backlog,
  • Giving patent examiners more time to examine complex applications,
  • Giving applicants incentives to provide more relevant prior art statements, and
  • Encouraging public participation in reducing questionable patents.

In addition, to reduce litigation in the post-grant process, legislation should:

  • Require plaintiffs to provide clear and convincing evidence that defendants acted "reprehensibly" in order to show willful infringement,
  • Require the courts to apply a reasonable royalty only to the economic value of the patent's contribution over the prior art and not on the entire market value of the infringing product,
  • Require patent owners to file cases in the district where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular place of business, and
  • Change the law to "first to file" and apply the 18-month publication requirement to all applications.

Innovation is a key driver of U.S. economic growth and patents are an enabler of innovation. While the U.S. patent system is not broken, it is out of balance. These reforms will restore the patent system's balance and increase innovation. They will significantly reduce the application backlog, help patent examiners to screen out poor quality patents, and reduce excessive litigation and damages, which will in turn enable companies to better innovate and create new products and services and the high wage U.S. jobs that support them.

Patents Pending: Patent Reform for the Innovation Economy

May 22, 2007

Congress is in the midst of the patent reform debate. Recently introduced legislation “The Patent Reform Act of 2007” (S. 1145 and H.R. 1908), would provide significant needed reforms to the system. This ITIF event examined the issue of patent reform and discussed recommendations in a new ITIF paper, "Patents Pending: Patent Reform for the Inn