Four Policy Trends in Innovation

On June 4, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted an event to discuss the intersection of evolving internet technology with citizens’ First Amendment rights, featuring Gary Shapiro, the President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. Shapiro spoke with Darrell West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies, as well as Founding Director of the Center for Technology Innovation. The conversation touched on various policy issues that directly influence innovation. Here is a brief snapshot of current issues in the policy areas discussed in last week’s event:

The Right to be Forgotten

The recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on the “right to be forgotten” has added fuel to the already contentious debate over the openness of the Internet. The ruling requires Internet search engines to remove links to information that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed.” In response to the ruling, Google has created a process for individuals to request that information be taken down from Google search results.

Internet Governance

In March, the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act was introduced in the House. This bill would postpone the transition of US oversight of ICANN and its various functions, to a multi-stakeholder model for approximately one year. Supporters of the DOTCOM bill have voiced concern about the multi-stakeholder model allowing authoritarian regimes to have an active role in global Internet governance. Those in opposition to the bill have argued that delaying the transition will only delay the inevitable. As of June, the DOTCOM bill is still under review by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

Copyright & IP

Of the many debates around copyright and intellectual property law, a recent topic is the concept of a “digital first sale” doctrine. Early last week, John Villasenor testified before the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet regarding the consequences that would arise if a digital first sale doctrine was introduced into US copyright law. Villasenor proposes to look towards the increasingly relevant licensing-based content distribution rather than on the limiting copyright laws. Find the full testimony here.

Patent Reform

A major development in the patent reform debate was the passing of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act in 2011. Among other things, this Act changed the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from a “first to invent” to a “first inventor to file” system. More recently, patent reform debate has focused on patent assertion entities (PAEs). According to a 2013 Congressional Research Service Report, PAEs “[focus] not on developing or commercializing patented inventions but on buying and asserting patents, often against firms that have already begun using the claimed technology after developing it independently, unaware of the PAE patent.” The Innovation Act of 2013 seeks to combat PAEs by requiring that the losing party in any patent-related lawsuit must pay the legal fees of the winning side. This would hinder the PAEs business model by enabling smaller businesses who usually can’t afford costly litigation, to go to court, instead of just settling out of court. In December 2013, the Innovation Act passed a House vote by a large margin and has been sent to the Senate.

You can watch the full webcast of the event here.

Kevin Risser contributed to this post.