There’s that old line about candidates—they campaign in poetry, but govern in prose. Few would mistake esoteric topics like innovation promotion and intellectual property protection as poetic.  So it is therefore somewhat remarkable that Presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' 10 things we learned from Peter Strzok's congressional testimony Get ready for summit with no agenda and calculated risks MORE has already released detailed outlines of these critical aspects of U.S. tech and competitiveness policies she would pursue if elected.  Her in-depth and balanced proposals in this area demonstrate a thoughtful approach that deserves recognition. 

In Clinton’s recently released innovation strategy, titled  Initiative on Technology & Innovation, she importantly emphasizes that America’s innovation and intellectual property edge needs to be preserved and enhanced.   Over 55 million higher-than-average-wage jobs and 35 percent of our nation’s GDP depend on our strong intellectual property regime.  Promoting Silicon Valley, Research Triangle Park, and other innovation hubs across the country is critical to America’s continuing global economic leadership.

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Clinton’s strategy puts a high premium on innovation in industries central to our future economic growth, such as manufacturing, sciences, telecommunications, software, and the much-discussed “internet of things.”  The plan proposes a combination of measures, including a greater focus on STEM coursework in public school curricula, a commitment to more evenly distributing startup investment dollars throughout the country, deferment of student loans for young people engaged in entrepreneurial ventures, and a commitment to retaining highly-educated top talent regardless of nationality, that would promote job growth and help move the country in a positive direction.   

Clinton’s strategy also supports the type of sustained research effort brought to bear against hard problems that can make really big things happen—such as curing cancer and moving our nation toward a renewable energy future. For example, her plans to invest in incubators and accelerators while simultaneously expanding access to capital for start-ups, in part by increasing the research and development budgets for the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and DARPA, would have a direct positive impact on our nation’s ability to shepherd and commercialize truly transformative ideas.  

Risky, expensive, exhausting innovation often derives from such federal funding.  The resulting intellectual property can then be transferred to private sector startups that move technology from the lab to the marketplace.  Her strategy represents a commitment to the kind of basic innovation that created the internet, put Americans into space, and made us the undisputed global leader in biotech.

In the intellectual property realm, Clinton’s stated goal is ensuring that “the patent system continues to reward innovators.” Notably, her plan demonstrates an up-to-date appreciation for the patent system by emphasizing the need for precisely “targeted” improvements, such as reforming venue procedures, curtailing frivolous demand letters, and increasing ownership transparency, while avoiding calls for additional sweeping patent law changes.  These calibrated, practical proposals would close the remaining gaps left after the major 2011 legislative reform of the U.S. patent system, the America Invents Act, and the major judicial decisions that preceded and followed it.

Clinton also appropriately pledges full funding for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office through a permanent end to fee diversion.  And she calls for long-overdue copyright reform that would allow un-utilized “orphan” works to be opened to the public.

Sometimes it is what is not said that counts the most.  Unlike the overly broad and misguided “Innovation Act” proposed in Congress, Clinton’s strategy does not choose sides between innovation methodologies or play favorites among industries.  It recognizes that it is the unparalleled ability to generate hard innovation that truly improves lives and sets this nation apart.  Achieving this outcome requires a massive sustained flow of investment coupled with high risk tolerance that is simply unsustainable without the strong and reliable incentives provided by a robust patent system.

It may not grab headlines or stir our hearts like the typical campaign rhetoric, but Hillary Clinton’s plan to promote innovation and protect intellectual property is exactly what our country needs to continue leading the world in innovation.

David J. Kappos served as Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from 2009-2013.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.