CONSERVATIVES: Failure to Protect Intellectual Property Harms Economy

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) The Conservative Action Project (CAP), a loose affiliation of dozens of conservative leaders, released a policy memo Tuesday calling for a re-establishment of U.S. economic competitiveness, along with more aggressive protection of U.S. intellectual property.

Stephen Moore photo

Stephen Moore/Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

The memo never mentions the late Obama administration, but the message between the lines is a direct rebuke to Obama’s policies and legacy.

The memo identifies numerous factors contributing to American economic doldrums, but sums up today’s situation in a few stark sentences (emphasis added):

Over the last few decades, we have seen America lose its global status as a manufacturing powerhouse. Millions of jobs have moved to China, Mexico, India and elsewhere, turning too many American communities into ghost towns. Harmful regulatory policies, high corporate taxes, and trade cheating have all contributed to this harmful trend.

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Not only have we ceded ground to much of the world on manufacturing, but harmful policies and an increased hostility to our nation’s Intellectual Property foundations have undermined American leadership in innovation and technology. According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s International IP Index this year, the US has dropped from 1st to 10th place (tied with Hungary) in the protection of “patents, related rights and limitations.” This is the first year that the US had not been in first place in this annual index.

The conservatives point to several specific Obama-era initiatives as those that actually corroded American economic leadership. Among them are the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which CAP says actually works as a “patent death squad” that “dramatically harms inventors,” and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which it says has not just failed to protect consumers, but actually “saddled” them with “higher costs and fewer choices.”

Not only that, but a National Review Online column last December said that in practice the consumer bureau has acted as a partisan, leftist organization prone to “paranoid secrecy and obsessive self-promotion.”

Naturally, therefore, the CAP memo calls for multi-faceted efforts to roll back various regulations enacted by both the consumer bureau and the patent board. And it calls for a return to the model followed by former president Ronald Reagan, who “set up a high-level commission and advanced policies to bolster our industrial competitiveness…[and] took steps to strengthen our IP and patent protections, among other important steps.”

CAP also calls for tax cuts and reforms, and for enforcing provisions in existing trade deals that punish other countries for failing to abide by their ends of the agreements. As the memo says, “A pro-growth, pro-innovation, pro-enforcement and anti-regulatory agenda is critical to reversing many of the destructive policies of the last eight years…. We must remove any question that the United States of America can lead the world on innovation, manufacturing and economic growth.”

The two top-listed signers of the memo are Edwin Meese, who served as Reagan’s attorney general, and Becky Norton Dunlop, who served Reagan as a White House advisor. Among others who signed are Kenneth Blackwell, a former ambassador and Ohio Secretary of State; James Miller III, who was Reagan’s budget director; and Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia. In all, 76 leaders of various conservative organizations signed the memo.

Many economists say the battle over intellectual property rights is a subject of far more importance than ordinary “trade” policies involving tariffs or import restrictions. Longtime conservative economics writer Stephen Moore explained why in a Daily Signal column that also appeared Tuesday, just as the CAP memo was being released.

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“Canada is inventing new rules to avoid paying American pharmaceutical and technology companies for their innovations and inventions,” he wrote. “This is also happening in Europe, where bureaucrats are trying to expropriate funds from American technology leaders, including Google, through bogus charges of monopoly activities. The Trump administration should vigorously repel these economic attacks against American companies.”

This is important, Moore explains, because “Intellectual property-intensive industries support 28 million American jobs—or about 1 in 5 workers. About $6 trillion of our gross domestic product now is in intellectual property-related industries, including almost all of Silicon Valley.” And: “The future of free and fair trade depends on rigorous enforcement of America’s multitrillion-dollar intellectual property industries. This is about jobs—millions of them—and the rule of law.”

Moore should have President Trump’s attention. He was one of Trump’s chief economic advisors during the 2016 campaign, and helped draft Trump’s tax-reform proposal.