Miracles Can Happen

In his excellent IPWatchdog post, Bruce Berman discusses Jonathan Taplin’s new book, “Move Fast and Break Things.” In his  post, Bruce sagely states, ” It would be difficult for many people and businesses to live without Amazon, Google, YouTube and Facebook, but it is becoming virtually impossible for those who produce intellectual property to live with them.”  If you missed it, his entire post and Taplin’s book are both worth reading.

But today’s must-read is a joint op-ed the Sunday Washington Post by MIT President Eric Lander and Alphabet’s (Google’s) Eric Schmidt. In their short well-crafted plea to the Trump Administration and Congress, the two Erics praise our nation’s underfunded R&D supported innovation ecosystem, referring to it as, “The Miracle Machine that needs refueling.” They explain the fundamental difference between investable and curiosity-driven basic scientific research saying “its fruits are typically too unpredictable, too far from commercialization and too early to be patentable. That’s where government comes in. While investing in basic research at universities usually doesn’t make sense for business, it has been a winning strategy for our nation. ” They then list its commercialized economic benefits including Google’s 40,000 domestic employees, then close by saying,  “The Miracle Machine has been astoundingly successful. The problem is that too few people — in government or the public — know how it works. As a result, we’ve been letting it fall into disrepair. If we don’t change course and invest in scientific research, we risk losing one of America’s greatest advantages. To our lasting detriment, we may wake up to find the next generation of technologies, industries, medicines, and armaments pioneered elsewhere.”

We could not have said it better, but might have added that because patents have become less reliable commercialization itself is in “disrepair.” Why should Congress invest in research that can not be commercialized? Commercialization is the bridge connecting federally-funded basic science research (‘too early to be patentable ) with (“patentable”) later stage private sector investment in products, therapies, and jobs including Google’s 40,000! Maybe Google does not include its lobbyist army infecting Capitol Hill with its poisonous patent-killing troll narrative but Eric Schmidt is right, and they are wrong.  Even a stopped clock is right twice each day. Eric Schmidt correctly urged expansion of R&D funding. Maybe he can get it right a second time by ending Google’s crusade to kill the patentability of basic science’s promising discoveries. The teaser tagline to Taplin’s book is “How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.” It is also the case that they contribute to the undermining of US patents and democracy along with our nation’s global economic leadership. The US economic clock is still running and miracles like today’s “Miracle Machine” op-ed still can happen but time is running out.

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