Intellectual Property and the Next President

by Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.
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After months of debates, worn out talking points, and a seemingly endless barrage of ads, election day is finally here!  I’m hoping this post serves as a reminder to get out and vote today.

Campaigns these days are not without their intellectual property feats and blunders.  There are the buttons; the slogans – purposeful and regrettable alike; and, of course, the iconic posters (a special shout out to the boys at Minneapolis design firm Studio MPLS for their work on Obama’s 2012 poster, shown below).   But there are also the misuses of intellectual property during these campaigns – by the campaigns themselves or by those seeking to financially gain from a strong political brand.  This election cycle, almost every presidential candidate has sued or has been sued for copyright, trademark, or patent infringement.  Polling machines have also been the subject of a patent infringement lawsuit this year.

Even in light of the attention given to the campaign’s own intellectual property (or lack thereof – cue the mudslinging!), the discussion of intellectual property rights is remarkably absent from the political arena.  Other than complaining about China, politicians haven’t mentioned much about intellectual property protection, and the media barely pays attention to the age of smartphone smackdowns.  In my opinion, intellectual property is important to the current political discussion for at least three reasons:

  • Technology and the internet have grown exponentially over the past two decades.  They’ve made the world more interconnected and provided opportunities for new ideas and creative outlets, as well as infringing activities.  Our system, particularly in the realm of software, may require re-invention to meet these new challenges;
  • Jobs and economic growth, and thus the success of this country, depend on the ingenuity and creativity of the American people; and
  • Intellectual property is the next battleground.  Small businesses are struggling to remain competitive at home and abroad as their intellectual property is ripped off.  On a broader scale, IP fights have increasingly nationalistic undertones.  As discussed on the economics blog ZeroHedge in an article on Apple v. Samsung, “in a world in which currency warfare has been going on for three years, and in which conventional trade wars are becoming more prevalent, it would be no surprise if the next round of warfare for limited consumer dollars is not fought in the FX trading room, nor in the antitrust commission, but in various patent law courtrooms.”

What, if anything, should our elected officials be doing to promote & protect intellectual property?

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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