Now that the results are in and Barack Obama will be the next U.S. president, what changes might his presidency bring for U.S. intellectual property laws? With election day behind us, a review of pre-election reports of Obama’s IP policies may be useful. Many of the Obama-Biden goals for IP are summarized in a fact sheet that was published on the Obama campaign website. Even if only a few of the goals become reality, the next several years will continue to yield interesting developments in the field of IP.
President-elect Obama has offered several suggestions for amending U.S. privacy laws. For example, he has proposed protecting sensitive information that is not sector-specific (i.e., not financial or health-related), such as geographic location data. An opposer of the original proposal to renew the USA Patriot Act in 2005, he also supports restrictions on how the government can use its databases of information about public citizens.
Copyrights and Media
The Obama-Biden fact sheet offers few specific proposals relating to copyright law. Although it states that “Intellectual property is to the digital age what physical goods were to the industrial age”, it describes Obama’s goals for copyright protection as simply promoting cooperation in international IP protection standards, and protecting U.S. IP in foreign markets.
However, President-elect Obama provided much more information about his proposals governing how copyrightable content is delivered. His proposals include:
- requiring Internet service providers to provide parents with content-filtering software and tools to prevent children from sharing information online;
- redefining “broadband” in FCC rules to exclude low (200 kbps) speeds;
- requiring “net neutrality” by preventing network service providers from discriminating against web sites and charging higher fees to access out-of-network web sites; and
- reducing the consolidation in media outlet ownership that has occurred in recent years, and emphasizing broadcasters’ public interest obligations to cover local issues and respond to local communities.
An Obama presidency may yield a continued boom in “clean technology” patents, as he proposes (i) a Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund, with investments of $10 billion in each year of a five-year period, and (ii) increased investment in low-carbon coal technologies.
Finally, in what several reporters have called a radical change, President-elect Obama has proposed giving patent applicants the option of requesting a “gold-plated” patent, which would only issue after rigorous public peer review. The concept of “citizen review” is a repeated theme in the Obama IP fact sheet. How this program will differ from existing Peer-to-Patent program will depend on the benefits offered to applicants who participate in the program, or perhaps whether participation becomes mandatory.