If you blinked you missed it, but President Obama gave a flyby to patent-related legislation in his State of the Union speech this week. It was in a sentence that (to our ear) sounds like it was appended to a paragraph about innovation:
“We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.”
The rub, of course, is legislating to address “costly, needless litigation” without needlessly raising the cost of all patent litigation and harming innovation in the process. We’ve already made our view plain on this issue; that any changes need to be “crafted in a way that preserves an independent judiciary and are not overly burdensome for all patent owners.” We’ll keep following the patent legislation as it works its way through the Senate and provide our thoughts in this blog.
Something that also struck us about the quoted Obama paragraph is the phrase, “the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones.” We don’t think Google needed a plug during the SOTU, but there is it. Why the sentence didn’t generally address two important technologies, as in “search engines and smartphones,” or call out leading American offerings in those fields, as in “Google and the iPhone,” we can only guess.