Senator Chris Coons Says No One Who Has Ever Criticized Intellectual Property Can Head The Patent Office

from the and-biden-agrees dept

There had been some talk that we might, once again, get someone to head the Patent Office who actually understood and appreciated the many trade-offs associated with monopoly rights around inventions. But apparently that’s not happening. There’s an article in The American Prospect saying that Senator Chris Coons — one of the more maximalist of the copyright and patent maximalists in Congress — has secured some sort of ridiculous deal with the Biden administration that no one who has ever criticized patents will be allowed to run the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patents have not historically animated sustained intraparty fights that spill out into headlines. But Coons?s pro-IP, pro-patent stance, and his long friendship with the president, has elevated the issue, and turned the selection of the next director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) into a flashpoint. Coons has been aggressive in working with the White House to secure a director who shares his viewpoints, and his top candidates have represented patent owners as lawyers or trade group leaders. According to sources on Capitol Hill and from outside groups, Coons has claimed that he was granted the power to make the USPTO choice in exchange for staying in the Senate. Coons had been seen as a potential pick for secretary of state.

Other members of Congress, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, have stressed in their conversations with the White House the need to balance the patent system to prevent abuse. Advocates have also asked the White House to ?overrule efforts? by Coons and his allies to put forward a USPTO director nominee who is ?aligned with the pharmaceutical industry or other intellectual property maximalists.?

First, it’s not surprising that Biden would go along with this. While Biden doesn’t have much of a track record of interest on patent issues, he was reliably one of the most maximalist Senators on the copyright front — so it’s not surprising that he’d be amenable to such a deal, even as many others in his party recognize the problems with such an approach.

The title of the article is somewhat ridiculous: “Chris Coons Working to Install Business-Friendly Candidate for Key Patent Position.” Being “pro-patent” is not “pro-business.” Patents and patent trolls are quite frequently anti-business. They are anti-competitive, and frequently anti-innovation — being used to stop, block, and suppress the companies who actually make stuff (or make stuff better). It’s not pro-business to be pro-patent. It’s pro-monopoly, and pro-patent lawyer.

And here, it gets even more insane. The article notes that Coons, along with Senator Mazie Hirono, sent a truly ridiculous letter to President Biden and VP Harris, saying that no one who has criticized patents should be allowed to be the USPTO director.

… the USPTO Director serves as one of our leading ambassadors for intellectual
property and innovation. A history of criticizing or weakening American intellectual property
rights will undermine his or her ability to advocate for strong protections and enforcement
mechanisms with our trade partners.

That’s just ridiculous. Only installing someone who has never criticized the patent system means installing a foolish, ignorant person who refuses to recognize the various trade-offs associated with the patent system. Hell, even Coons himself is a critic of the patent system. He’s introduced bills to change the patent system (notably, to change them for the worse, but still, to change them).

In the letter, Coons also makes a bunch of assertions that are simply laughable to anyone even remotely familiar with the problems of over patenting, patent abuse and patent trolls:

… the USPTO Director should understand that clear, predictable, and enforceable intellectual
property protections drive economic growth, foster entrepreneurship, create jobs, and improve
our quality of life. Our intellectual property systems have long enjoyed a reputation as the
international gold standard, and this has allowed the United States to leverage the incredible
talents of our people to lead the world in technology and creative enterprise. The USPTO
Director must ensure that risk takers can access the research and development investments
necessary to challenge incumbent players, bring disruptive technologies to market, and win the
global race to develop the next generation of personalized medicine, clean energy technology,
quantum computing, wireless communications protocols, and artificial intelligence.

Anyone who thinks that patents are what is necessary to drive any of those industries has no idea what they’re talking about. Patents and patent trolls threaten the innovation in those industries.

Of course, some of this may be in Coons’ background. His one private sector job was as in-house counsel for W.L. Gore, makers of GoreTex (I’m sure it’s a total coincidence that Coons’ stepfather founded the company). That company holds a bunch of patents and has been involved in a series of patent fights. And Coons apparently still owns millions of dollars in stock from the company.

Of course, many of those fights seems to involve accusations that W.L. Gore infringed on the patents of others — including one somewhat infamous case that literally was over four decades in the making and which did not end well for Gore. Given that experience alone, you might think that Coons would recognize that patents are a two-edged sword. And even if you support them in some circumstances, they clearly can be used as a blunt weapon against innovation and product development, and as a costly attack on innovative companies.

Separately, of course, there’s the issue that Coons represents Delaware — and while the Texas courts have become famous as patent troll breeding grounds, lots of folks know that Delaware courts also are favored by patent trolls.

The second most common venue for nonpracticing entity litigation is Delaware: It alone sees as many cases as the next six most popular venues combined ? over 20% of cases overall. And as we?ve computed using data from RPX, non-practicing entities? Delaware patent suits end with loss or dismissal only 8% of the time, a scant difference from the 4% rate in Marshall.

Either way, it’s unfortunate that his view on patents seems so skewed and so dangerous — and that he was apparently able to cut some sort of deal with the Biden administration on who should run the USPTO. An ideal leader should be one who recognizes the competing interests with patents, not someone who slavishly praises patents, even the parts that are so problematic.

The Prospect article also floats some names that Coons has been suggesting — and they include literal patent trolls and patent troll lobbyists. Which is… not a good look at all. And that he has apparently tried to shoot down two candidates who would be excellent: Colleen Chien of Santa Clara University Law School and Arti Rai of Duke University. Both have done lots of research and have written important papers on the patent system, while noting some of the problems with them. But, perhaps for those reasons, Coons is trying to block them from being appointed and make sure a patent troll or, at least, a patent troll friendly lawyer gets put in place instead.

That all of this is happening against the backdrop of a pandemic — let alone one where the overuse of patents to block vaccines and treatments has been a major concern — makes you wonder: is Coons truly interested in what’s best for American innovation… or what’s best for his W.L. Gore stock?

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Comments on “Senator Chris Coons Says No One Who Has Ever Criticized Intellectual Property Can Head The Patent Office”

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47 Comments
Stephen T. Stonesays:

If anything, putting a critic of the system in charge of it can only improve the system???or, at worst, keep the status quo as-is.

A critic of the system will look at the shortcomings of said system and work to mitigate or correct those flaws. Hell, a critic is willing to admit there are flaws in the first place. But someone who can?t/won?t criticize the system will never even admit that the system has flaws; their inability to look outside their own ideology (and self-interest) will doom the system. Flaws will become bigger, consequences will grow worse, and nothing will be done because the maximalists will see the harms caused by their stance as a good thing.

Give me a critic over a maximalist every day of the week. At least the critic will recognize reality.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re:

"If anything, putting a critic of the system in charge of it can only improve the system???or, at worst, keep the status quo as-is."

These passages from below are quotes from an early former patent board member;

"it would be curious then if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. if nature has made any one thing less susceptible, than all others, of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an Idea; which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the reciever cannot dispossess himself of it. it?s peculiar character too is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. he who recieves an idea from me, recieves instruction himself, without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, recieves light without darkening me. that ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benvolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point; and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement, or exclusive appropriation. inventions then cannot in nature be a subject of property…"

"…I know well the difficulty of drawing a line between the things which are worth to the public the embarrasment of an exclusive patent, and those which are not. as a member of the Patent-board for several years, while the law authorised a board to grant or refuse patents, I saw with what slow progress a system of general rules could be matured."

  • Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, 13 August 1813.

If a fscking Founding Father, having sat on a patent board for years, developed quite reasonable doubt as to the validity of patents in general, then I think there should be no reason not to hire a sceptic to helm the patent office.

Anonymoussays:

… the USPTO Director should understand that clear, predictable, and enforceable intellectual property protections drive economic growth, foster entrepreneurship, create jobs, and improve our quality of life.

If you are part of the 1%. For everybody else the result is fewer and more expensive products, and exposes new businesses to legal costs and destruction by patent trolls.

That One Guysays:

'No fair, they might fix the cheats I'm exploiting!'

I can’t help but be reminded of the american police system, where it seems the only ones allowed to be in charge are those that are diehard ‘nothing is wrong, everything is working exactly as intended’ fanatics, and everyone can see how well that’s working out.

If you’re not willing to admit that there might be problems with something then it’s impossible to do anything about those problems, and as a result they’re only going to get worse until it reaches the point where ‘burn it down and start from scratch’ is increasingly seen as a viable option.

Anonymoussays:

Re: 'No fair, they might fix the cheats I'm exploiting!'

"I can’t help but be reminded of the american police system, where it seems the only ones allowed to be in charge are those that are diehard ‘nothing is wrong, everything is working exactly as intended’ fanatics, and everyone can see how well that’s working out."

Or worse. You support de funding them altogether. Then your car gets stolen right in front of you and the first thing you do is dial 911. Shortly after, you go on record that you still want to de fund the police and that the kids were not at fault. They were victims of generational poverty. Antonio Brown is an idiot.

The problems are not JUST with the police. They definitely could do a better job, but so could we. IMO Parenting our children, and not justifying a violent culture by blaming it on poverty would be a good start.

That One Guysays:

Re: Re: 'No fair, they might fix the cheats I'm exploiting!'

Yes, not wanting to keep throwing money at a bunch of violent killers who have shown open contempt towards the rights and lives of others is totally worse than ignoring the massive corruption infecting the system and pretending that it’s the people objecting that are the bigger problems. /s

Stephen T. Stonesays:

You really don?t fucking get it.

Nobody is saying there isn?t a place for police in society. But police have to be more than armed assholes who operate with little-to-no oversight and are placed above the same laws they swear to uphold. Police have to be more than violent thugs who are trained to see every citizen as a potentially lethal threat.

Police also have to stop being the be-all, end-all of emergency response. People calling the cops for wellness checks have gotten other people killed by those cops. That shit needs to end.

Do we need the police? Arguably, yes. Do we need them for everything? Objectively, no. Do we need to give them the funding they need to buy military-grade equipment and use it on everyday citizens like American cities are fucking war zones? Fuckin? hell no.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

I’ve lived in 6 states, and about 20 cities. I’ve had numerous contacts with the police. They’ve never knocked down my front door with a tank. Do the police need military grade equipment? I’m not sure. Do the people they are policing have military grade equipment? Can the average citizen buy a sniper rifle that can shoot thru an engine block? I think we both know the answer.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Does the average police department need a SWAT team?

Does the average police department need an MRAP?

Does the average police department need sonic cannons?

Because numerous ?average? police departments across the country have at least those things.

We do not need police departments to become an unofficial part of the United States Armed Forces???and to treat the United States as a war zone where every civilian is a potential threat to ?blue lives?. Anyone who thinks otherwise is part of the reason we can?t reform policing from something resembling a military outfit to something resembling a group of people dedicated to protecting everyday citizens without reckless disregard for human life.

?and besides all that, ten bux says you think Derek Chauvin was justified.

Rockysays:

Re: Re:

I’ve lived in 6 states, and about 20 cities. I’ve had numerous contacts with the police. They’ve never knocked down my front door with a tank.

So you have been lucky enough not to have a bad experience when interacting with the police, but evidently a myriad of other people have to the extent they died as a consequence of it which makes the above remark utterly worthless.

You can use the same failed argument about criminals: there are people who have interacted with criminals without something bad happening so let us ignore the criminals when they actually break the law.

Do the police need military grade equipment? I’m not sure. Do the people they are policing have military grade equipment? Can the average citizen buy a sniper rifle that can shoot thru an engine block? I think we both know the answer.

Which is irrelevant. The facts are that regardless of any equipment the police have there is a clear pattern of abuse how they act against the people in the communities they are supposed to protect. That they happen to have military equipment only exacerbates that pattern and coupled with the fact they seldom face any kind of repercussions for actually breaking the law they are supposed to uphold means that what they practice is legalized thuggery.

Plus, if the police actually needs military equipment to their job, that tells us that the society you live is so fucking backwards and stupid that it ignores the sale of weapons triggering that type of requirement for them.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re:

"They’ve never knocked down my front door with a tank."

I’ve never been murdered or subjected to burglary, so by your logic we don’t need laws on the tablets making killing a person or taking their stuff illegal?

Congratulations on being lucky enough not to be the subject of police abuse. Statistics, however, show that George Chauvin is not an aberration but a lamentably common type of person in the force.

Only in america would you find someone so blind they’d look at police kill statistics and not see a scary problem. Each year your cops kill more people, proportionately, than criminals do in many other nations.

Of course the issue is compounded by the fact that white supremacists have been so successful in recruiting police officers the FBI had to highlight the common correlation between white supremacy organization membership and wearing a badge as the greatest internal threat facing the US. Meaning that if you are white and middle class then congratulations; enjoy the privilege of not being deliberately targeted by a racist wearing blue.

Your arguments, at best, just sound like ; "I don’t see a problem, I don’t want to see a problem, Im not personally affected, and fsck all those who are"*.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re:

"Can the average citizen buy a sniper rifle that can shoot thru an engine block?"

Sweden has restrictive gun laws. Yet there are more high-powered 30-06 rifles capable of shooting through walls and engine blocks in this nation per capita than exist in the US. Our cops aren’t armed with military gear and we still don’t see your problems.

Of course that could just be sweden being a country of nice guys…so let’s talk about the rest of the damn EU nations where this applies, eh?

This is just one more "Only In America" problem where you "solve" an issue which doesn’t exist with a "solution" causing a high body count and somehow normalize the police racking up kill counts in cases which in the rest of the world would be the indicator of a failed state.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Yeah because Sweden and the U.S. are the same."

No. That’s the point. Sweden, Switzerland, Germany can have more high-powered guns by head than the US has and still doesn’t see either gun murder or police killings on anywhere near that scale.

Was "Yeah, but the US is so inferior in that regard" all you had or was there an actual argument you wanted to make?

That One Guysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: 'No fair, they might fix the cheats I'm exploiti

Given I’m already of the opinion that the only time you should call the police in the US is if you’re willing to accept a body-count higher than zero resulting from it I’m already well past that point, so your ‘gotcha’ kinda falls flat.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: 'No fair, they might fix the cheats I'm exploiti

"Then don’t call them when they steal your car right?"

In the US, sure as hell not; You might be the one getting shot. Go google "Ma’Khia Bryant", "Justine Diamond", "Jacob Griffin", "Andrea Thomas Churna"…hell, losing a car is bad but insurance might get through for you. Calling the cops to the scene might get you into the morgue.

Of course there’s a common thread in most of these cases; The person getting shot was brown.

So all you’ve got is "Fsck the other people, because I personally have no problems?"

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Funding the police won?t solve the fundamental issues that create the conditions for people to become criminals. You want to solve the problem of crime? Solve the problem of desperation???the problem of people feeling so out of options that they turn to crime. Starting with poverty is the bare fucking minimum.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

And what would you suggest as a solution???doing nothing? Doing something that gives cops the ability to buy more MRAPs, or gives them greater authority and power with even less oversight? I don?t see you tossing out any ideas on how to deal with a broken police system or the underlying issues that turn people into desperate criminals, so if you?re going to criticize what I have to say on the issue, the absolute bare minimum you can do is bring some fucking ideas of your own to the table. If you can?t do that: Further contributions from you will be regarded as irrelevant and treated accordingly.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Let me explain the realities of life to you, Stephen. You obviously need someone to do it.

Some people are smarter than others. Some are stupider than others. You, for example, obviously more stupid than most.

We organize society so that smart people take the majority of the money and make the majority of decisions. That’s a good thing. Think about going to a doctor, or having someone work on your fuse box, or your plumbing. If you chose stupid people to do those things, you would be standing in your own shit when you were electrocuted, and the doctor wouldn’t take the time to revive you because you stink. That’s not a good outcome. Hence, we need smart people for those kinds of things, as varied as their duties are. That’s called a "free market". People are free to decide who is smart and who is stupid.

The alternative is Russian or Chinese style. Instead of the smartest people deciding everything, the most brutal people decide everything. I see you are in favor of that, which is why stupid people like you will never get anywhere.

I’ll be even the army wouldn’t take you, you’re too stupid even for them. What do smart people like me do with stupid people like you? The answer is we tax people in the middle (not us smart people of course) to give stupid useless people like you unemployment checks and covid checks and those kinds of things. So, all things considered, that’s more than fair. After all, you’re not standing in your own shit (except your own shit writing) getting electrocuted.

I know you don’t see it that way, but hey, who cares, idiot?

That One Guysays:

Re: Re:

Oh absolutely, why if we get rid of police(or more accurately redirect the funding away from the thugs in blue and to groups that actually serve the public) we might have to deal with people who think that the rights, property and even lives of others are of no value, and who consider ‘following the law’ to be entirely optional…

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: 'No fair, they might fix the cheats I'm exploiting!'

"The problems are not JUST with the police."

The most obvious problems certainly are;

Go read the report of a certain Mike German who while undercover with the FBI found a frightening correlation between white supremacist group/militia membership and law enforcement employment. When a large demographic among the citizenry know, for a fact, that the officer in uniform is highly likely to be a Klansman, then that’s where the problem starts. It’s not paranoia when the police really are out to get you.

"You support de funding them altogether."

You realize that doesn’t mean "abolish the police" right? It means stop giving them military hardware they aren’t trained to use. Stop allocating funds their actual jobs don’t merit. Stop hiring people who can not pass the same stringent psych eval both at employment and in basic training which the military employs.

"…and the first thing you do is dial 911."

With examples out there of people calling for the cops only for said cops to show up and make the situation worse – like lighting a man on fire or shooting the wrong person it’s become the case that dialing the cops is the last thing you want to do in many places. Especially if you’re brown as in no few cases calling the cops meant the caller got shot or harrassed by those cops.

"They definitely could do a better job, but so could we."

Yeah, you could hold US police officers to the same standards every other G20 nation does. Proportionally police in the US kill more people than criminals do in many other countries. Consider that before you open your trap about US police not being the bloody elephant in the room.

ECAsays:

And the $64 dollar answer

Comes in the form of Why do corps WANT IP/CR rights forever?
well, they dont think they can Compete if everyone has the ability to make/create the same products.
Unlike all the Cheap DVD players that ALL have the same internals, but are sold under 100 different names.
Then we can go and look at DVD/TV recorders, and the BS built into them. Most of which is only a few companies make them, and in reading the instructions(I have) can only record in SD mode, Not the Current standard?
How about cars? If all the designs were released, SOMEONE could make a fairly Good car, with all the special things we want. But those patents are controlled by specific corps. And PART of the reason, we dont really have a USA built car anymore, as paying the other firms for the USE, gets abit expensive.
For all of this, where is the BETTER in America, NOT that much better?
2 companies have copyrights on a chip to do GPS for cellphones. Talk about a fight. Then we get China, who has been buying up IP and CR to benefit from Everyone’s building of devices IN their country. What a fight that will be. Do we keep the laws covering IP? Or go pirate everything.

Mike Masnicksays:

Re:

What is ridiculous is your communistic (community view absent dissent) view of the American patent system

Communism is about the government controlling the means of production, handing out government granted monopolies, and telling which companies are allowed to make what.

The US patent system is about the government granting monopolies, and telling which companies are allowed to make what.

I hate to break it to you, friend, but the US Patent system is much closer to "communism" than anything else.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

I see you took the time to hide the comment. That’s exactly what communists do. They keep talking about the "community", while they hide any dissent of the same "community".

You, like them, are just a thug, enforcing your stupid ideas with censorship rather than any reasoning.

What a sad pathetic pussy you are, for all to see.

Samuel Abramsays:

Re: Re: Re:

You really don’t know how TechDirt’s comment section works, now do you? Mike Masnick doesn’t arbitrary decree whether a comment is insightful, funny, or hidden behind a pink clickwall; the community here decides that by voting on those "+" icons on the upper-right area of the comment and if enough of one are gathered, the respective effect (insightful light bulb, funny lol, or abusive/trolling/spam pink clickwall) ensues.

Are you dumb, or just high on dunning-kruger?

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re:

He does indeed. To the morons in the alt-right and lamentably much of the US citizenry in general, you’d be able to shoehorn half the founding fathers and fscking Adam Smith in their definition of a "communist".

Idiocracy was supposed to be satire. But the US, bravely pioneering the stupidest of times, has declared Poe’s Law the God-Emperor. Long may it reign.

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