Trump's effort to make America great must include strengthening intellectual property rights
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America’s innovators are under attack.
 
Ill-advised decisions by Congress and reckless overreach by recent presidents have chipped away at the intellectual property (IP) rights that are the bedrock of America’s success.
 
The founding fathers specifically created a system of intellectual property rights that rewarded innovation and encouraged the sharing of technological breakthroughs. That IP system is why the United States is the world’s leader in science and technology. From life-saving medicines to revolutionary smartphones, America has been behind almost every major innovation of the past two centuries.
 
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But the cost of obtaining and defending an American patent is at an all-time high, while the value of a patent is at an all-time low. Thanks to increasingly unclear and feeble IP rules, it is difficult to determine what is allowed to be patented, and painfully difficult to protect patents against infringement.
 
 
As a result, many of our most innovative minds are being forced overseas where governments better protect their intellectual property and they are more handsomely rewarded for their inventions.
 
America’s frail IP protections are having real consequences. Strong intellectual property rights are vital to attract investment, generate jobs in manufacturing and R&D, and help to level the playing field for American companies. Without a strong IP system, America is destined to lag behind other countries.
 
No position in federal government is more crucial to rebuilding our nation’s crumbling foundation of intellectual property rights and promoting the global importance of IP than the Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).
 
The director is responsible for advising the president and the administration on IP matters, developing the administration’s positions on domestic and international IP issues, promoting strong IP policies globally, and working to prevent IP theft domestically and abroad – all while overseeing $3 billion agency with more than 10,000 employees responsible for administering patents and trademarks.
 
This crucial post has been vacant since Michelle Lee, the former USPTO director, resigned on June 6, handing President Trump the task of selecting a replacement.
 
Because of the growing need to strengthen IP protections, choosing the next director is likely to be one of the most important nominations Trump makes as president.
 
Our patent system is at a crossroads, so at this time the patent director need to be someone with management experience and unparalleled respect in the IP community.
 
No one is better qualified for the role of USPTO director than Philip Johnson. As a Harvard-educated attorney with 45 years in IP litigation, Johnson has done everything from managing large stables of patent and trademark attorneys, to helping inventors and small startups protect their creations.
 
Johnson’s credentials are unassailable.

Earlier this year, Johnson was inducted into the international IP Hall of Fame, sharing the distinction with such luminaries as Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Victor Hugo, and Thomas Jefferson.

Johnson has served as president of the Intellectual Property Owners Association, INTERPAT, the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel, and the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation. Additionally, he has served on the boards of more than a half-dozen other IP-related organizations.

He is no stranger to Washington, either. Johnson regularly testifies before both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees about issues such as patent law reform and abusive patent litigation.

The American system of IP rights is broken and there’s no easier way to fix the problem than by naming one of the world’s preeminent intellectual property leaders to head the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Selecting Phil Johnson as USPTO Director will strengthen the U.S. economy, create new jobs, spur exciting new technologies, and reinforce America’s position as the leader in innovation.

If President Trump wants to live up to his promise to “make America great again,” he needs to work to make intellectual property rights great again. Nominating Phil Johnson as undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and as director of the Patent and Trademark Office would be an important step in that direction.

David Williams is president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating the public on the government's effects on the economy.


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