Thursday, July 17, 2008

Presidential candidates on intellectual property: JOHN MCCAIN

There is nothing on the John McCain website regarding patents. Using the search query: returned three items, only one of which is a speech of McCain's that has any relevance to patents, in which he briefly mention patents in ways that Democrats usually argue. 1) On April 28, 2008, McCain gave a talk at the Miami's Children Hospital, mostly on health care issues. At one point, he spoke as follows: "Pharmaceutical companies must worry less about squeezing additional profits from old medicines by copying the last successful drug and insisting on additional patent protections and focus more on new and innovative medicine." Something Ted Kennedy would say. Other than that, there is nothing on the Web site of McCain's presidential campaign dealing with patent policy. While I don't like Obama's ideas, at least he has something. McCain's apathy is somewhat confirmed by other accounts. For example, a May 29th blog on a talk McCain gave at the digital conference "D" ( the blogger printed a response of McCain's to a question on patents asked by Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal: "... However, when Mossberg said that many people think that U.S. patent law is allowing companies to patent existing ideas, and asked McCain if this was a problem on his radar screen, McCain gave such a firm "No!" that it prompted audience laughter. 'I want to focus on the big things.', he said." With this attitude, forget about any serious patent reform under McCain. Indeed, I am not sure if McCain really understands the economics of innovation (or economics in general). His one technology solution for the energy crisis is a $300 million dollar prize for a breakthrough in battery technology at least an order of magnitude better than what is available now: "I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people.", Mr. McCain said, "by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars." However, as many blogs pointed out, this is an idiotic idea. One blog about this is at: llion-challenge-is-interesting.html Why is this an idiotic idea? Anyone smart enough to invent such a battery (which is an incredibly complex problem to solve - billions have already been thrown at it) - anyone that smart is going to be smart enough to realize that a patent on such a battery would be worth BILLIONS and BILLIONS of dollars. So unless the prize includes retention of patent rights, this is an idiotic innovation idea of McCain's. It will take at least a hundred million dollars to solve this problem. With that level of money, IP lawyers will be involved. And any IP lawyer who doesn't advise his clients to file lots of patent applications on such breakthrough battery technology should be disbarred. Who's advising McCain to spout this nonsense? One advisor is lawyer Ed Reines of Weil Gotshal, who generally holds the public in contempt when it comes to patent policy (only lawyers and judges can talk about such issues), law professor Michael Abramowicz who apparently recently proposed an auction system for extending patent terms (which is an interesting idea, but mostly a secondary problem compared to bigger problems plaguing the patent system), and law professor Eugene Volokh, who has never heard of Due Process constitutional law (IP law suffers bigtime from Due Process vagueness, apparently beyond the notice of Volokh), and some other lawyers. With McCain's attitudes, they are wasting their time.

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