James Edwards is featured in, and has been an incredible resource for the creators of the film INNOVATION RACE. James is the founder and executive director of Conservatives for Property Rights, and is the patent advisor for the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund.
For the past century, America has been the world leader in ideas, invention, and innovation. Developing new technologies to solve complex issues as well as tools to make our lives more comfortable and efficient is the realization of the American dream for many. But our grip on 'world leader' status is loosening as China has emerged as a powerful political and industrial force.
Today, China is threatening American innovation by exploiting weaknesses in US patent protection, and big tech is letting them get away with it. Innovation Race explores these critical issues impacting all Americans, and proposes solutions for how we can restore US dominance in invention, technology and innovation. innovationracemovie.com
Q: James, thanks for doing this interview with us. Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm executive director of the coalition Conservatives for Property Rights, patent policy advisor to the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, and a consultant to other clients on intellectual policy, health care, and antitrust policy issues. I've worked on U.S. Senate and U.S. House staffs, at the Republican National Committee, at a health care trade association, and now as a consultant.
Q: How did you get interested in patent rights, and the rights of inventors?
I did a stint on the Senate Judiciary Committee staff and, as legislative aide in both bodies, handled the issues in the Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction. The last Congressman I worked for sat on that committee and I handled that portfolio. Patent and other IP issues were active at the time, so I dug into those issues to new depths.
Later, I lobbied on patent issues, working with Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative icon, who was very interested in patent policy and inventors' rights. When representing a business association, I gained a deeper appreciation of how vital patent exclusivity is for developing new markets, commercializing new inventions, facilitating transactions. My interest just continued to grow.
Q: How are faith and these issues connected?
The Lord is both creator and owner of what he creates. Human beings are image bearers of the Creator. In his Common Grace, God's endowed humans with creativity and inherent rights of ownership. That includes owning what you invent. Inventions, like other works of art, are property that didn't previously exist.
Q: What happened in 2011 that weakened patent protections?
In 2011, Congress enacted the America Invents Act. The AIA made a number of significant changes to our patent system. It injected features from foreign patent systems that aren't premised on private property rights. So, the AIA weakened patent rights.
Q: What are inventors and creatives facing with the new laws in place? Do they have any hope?
The AIA made patents less reliable, patent rights less secure, and harms American innovation and competitiveness. The AIA set up an administrative proceeding that gives patent infringers a way to invalidate the patents being asserted against them. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board tilts dramatically toward patent invalidation, which wipes out a patent owner's property and property rights.
On top of that, the Supreme Court has contributed to the damage to our patent system and to patent rights. SCOTUS has made it nearly impossible to obtain injunction against patent infringers - and that's after proving patent validity and patent infringement in court. SCOTUS has made a mess of patent eligibillity doctrine. Its judicially created exceptions to what's patent-eligible subect matter renders unpatentable inventions that have been patentable in America and that remain patentable in other countries - including China.
Ironically, injunctions and other remedies for owners of other types of IP remain available for enforcing their property rights.
There's some hope, sure. For one thing, patent issues don't break on partisan lines, and we have some very strong Democratic allies. We've had some wins - mostly defensive, such as blocking bad legislation, forcing withdrawal of an overbroad antitrust-patent policy statement, and forcing a closer look at and delay on an even more damaging waiver of the TRIPS agreement by the World Trade Organization.
Q: Things are moving quickly with these issues. What are the latest happenings in DC?
What I call the Infringers Lobby - which includes Big Tech and Chinese state-backed companies - is working overtime to further weaken our patent system. They've had help in recently retired Sen. Pat Leahy. One example is the Pride in Patent Ownership Act. This bill would punish future patent owners for recordation errors of some prior owner, and provide infringers new ways to delay, run up costs of patent litigation costs.
The Biden administration has ramped up antitrust enforcement, including pushing antitrust forward when patent exclusivity and antitrust intersect. This deliberately diminishes the essential rights of exclusivity patents provide for limited duration, while treating the exercise of the right to exclude as "anticompetitive."
Q: How can we as individuals respond? What can be done?
People can respond by getting informed and by weighing in, early and often, with their Senators and Congressman. Get informed by watching the excellent documentaries Innovation Race and Invalidated. Follow Conservatives for Property Rights - @4PropertyRights on Twitter and on the web at property-rts.org - CPR is regularly involved in patent policy. Make sure your lawmakers in Washington know what patent legislation to support and what to oppose.
Also help educate your lawmakers, emphasizing how vital secure, reliable patents are as pivate property rights, to U.S. competitiveness, and to our innovation leadership. Those you send to Washington need to know that you care about secure, reliable patents and patent rights. So let them know regularly.