Article 1, Section 8 is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated provisions in the U.S. Constitution. It grants to Congress the power to protect intellectual property owners by establishing a process to grant exclusive rights to creators and owners of original ideas: “The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
Intellectual property protections, such as copyright and patent laws, incentivize artists, writers, inventors, and innovators to take risks and devote considerable time and resources to develop new ideas, but they also prevent copyright and patent owners from having a permanent monopoly on the material they produce.
Intellectual property laws are often utilized in important and beneficial ways, but some have abused these protections to unfairly control or seize intellectual property or to earn an unjust profit at the expense of innovation, such as patent assertion entities (PAEs).
According to Steven Titch, an intellectual property law expert, PAEs, also called patent trolls, “exist to exploit weaknesses in the U.S. patent system.” They accomplish this by stockpiling patents they never intend on using – other than to bring alleged patent violators to court.
“[PAEs’] business model is built on the fact it is often cheaper for defendants to settle a patent infringement claim than to endure a lengthy court process, risking an unfavorable ruling and incurring significant legal fees,” wrote Titch.
Others attempt to unjustly profit from intellectual property laws by lobbying federal agencies to establish regulations that favor particular businesses. This strategy is illustrated clearly by an attempt made by Google in June 2016 to gain free access to copyrighted television programming.
“The [Federal Communications Commission] is considering a bizarre, back-to-the-future regulation – which will prop up the dying set-top-box market so as to allow cronies like Google to have free access to copyrighted television content … [by forcing] cable companies to descramble the content which they are obligated by contract to protect – and for which they pay most handsomely,” reported Seton Motley, the president of Less Government.
Intellectual property laws should reward those who develop new inventions and ideas while also recognizing the significant benefits these advancements have to society. Patent and copyright reforms must be made to weed out frivolous claims and lawsuits, and lawmakers and government agencies should not pick winners and losers by creating rules that favor certain copyright claims or industries over others.