After huddling in our caves for a year – the world is coming to life again. That will be good for the economy, it will be good for everyone’s mental health, but most importantly it will likely mean a boom in innovation.
The problem is that until the Trump Administration the public policy momentum had been swinging away from innovators. Inventors were referred to as patent trolls. Congress passed legislation – with more votes than the Patriot Act, that made it harder to enforce a patent. A kangaroo court, with designs to kill patents was created at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). And, almost anything that involved coding was rendered unpatentable.
Basically – innovators were treated as the enemy.
While it is fairly easy to understand that killing off innovation isn’t good for the economy, a series of clever public relations campaigns, a few bad actors, and a few poorly worded and generic court rulings were able to convince policy makers that inventors were the enemy.
However, a few years ago that started changing. Once policymakers realized that they were voting on legislation that would consider University’s patent Trolls – they realized that they had gone too far. Andrei Iancu, the head of the USPTO under President Trump, made it his job to change the way that we talked about innovators. Inventors started becoming the hero again. It was easy to see that the pendulum had started swinging back, but we still have a long way to go.
With a new administration and a batch of amazing innovations – from vaccines to self landing rocket ships and even a drone on Mars – now is the time to accelerate the momentum and once again lead the world in innovation.
It will be tricky, the biggest corporations in the US are innovation users. Sure, they develop some of their own good, but primarily they purchase other people’s innovations. While that is good for the inventors, it is a cost to these big corporations, and doing anything that a patent more valuable means increasing their costs.
Even writing that sentence – I can hear the big corporate CEOs calling up their team of Gucci clad cronies to once again crush the dreams of inventors and kill all hope of a new innovation renaissance.
Fortunately, with the momentum moving in the direction of innovators – the cronies are going to have a harder time killing it this time. For example, there is currently a bipartisan group of Senators working on a way to clarify patent eligibility – or what can be patented. There was a recent paper out from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence that made the point that we were falling behind countries like China in Artificial Intelligence innovations. And, while the issue wasn’t fully addressed under Iancu’s leadership patent eligibility was something that he was interested in, started the ball rolling, and put the USPTO on the path of addressing.
So, the stars are aligning – momentum is with the inventor – and with a world of innovators getting ready to return to their labs – the rate of innovation is getting ready to spike.
Charles Sauer (@CharlesSauer ) is the president of the Market Institute and previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor, and for an academic think tank.