Commerce Department's Own Study Debunks Commerce Department's Defense Of Said Study

from the *sigh* dept

So, back in April we wrote about a bizarre report from the US Commerce Department and the US Patent and Trademark Office, which tried to sum up the "jobs" in "IP-intensive" industries, as a measure of how important those laws were. As we noted last week, the White House reached out to us and offered up the experts behind the report for an interview -- but when we submitted some questions (as they asked us to do prior to setting up the final interview), they suddenly rescinded that offer and offered up this bizarre and nonsensical statement about how Steve Jobs had lots of patents and Steve Jobs created cool products, so patents are important. They did nothing to refute the insane methodology of the study that attributes all of the jobs of people working in grocery stores, insurance companies, clothing stores and more to "IP intensive industries." Nor do they explain why the report is useful in suggesting why we need more copyright laws to protect all those jobs -- when copyright really barely touches on any of the jobs in the list.

Instead... they focus on this bizarre Steve Jobs example.
All evidence suggests that patents continue to drive innovation in technology. At the time of his death, innovator Steve Jobs had more than 300 patents. Companies such as Apple have made transformative changes in our lives, made possible by massive investments made by intellectual property. But while such companies develop brand-new technologies and services, they also perform incremental innovation. Thus, IP conflicts arise as the byproducts of a very healthy overall innovation environment. The tech industry is characterized by extremely sharp drops in costs over time, extremely strong increases in performance, and multiple changes in market leads, with different companies leading at different points in time. That tremendously competitive marketplace is a sign of the critical role IP rights play in driving technology companies to invest, compete, create jobs, and drive exports.
Of course, as a friend pointed out, since the report covers trademarks, copyright and patents, it's a little strange that they focused solely on patents in their "defense" of the report. After all, as the "grocery store" discussion points out, the vast, vast majority of the "jobs" counted in the report are related to trademarks. And, so far, nearly all of the policy efforts that are highlighting the report are around copyright issues.

Oh, and then there's this:
That's figure 2 from this very same report. And, as you might notice, it seems to show that, on an indexed basis, jobs in "patent intensive" industries have been on the decline relative to everything else. In fact, it seems to suggest that since about 1998 (hmmm... right at the point in which the Federal Circuit appeals court deemed software patentable in the infamous State Street case), relative employment in patent-intensive industries has gone down. Pretty massively.

Lets add to it another chart, one we published a year and a half ago, put together by the folks at Patently-O.
Note the big jump in patents in 1998, and the continued growth all the while jobs in "patent-intensive industries" seemed to be on the decline? Yeah. Isn't that interesting?

Yes, these are also correlation figures, possibly not causal. But the correlation can be useful in showing that something doesn't add up from the story (it's not so useful for explaining causation, but rather just for indicating that a causal relationship doesn't appear to be present). So it seems even more bizarre and more questionable that the Commerce Department is waving around "Steve Jobs had patents" as the defense of the report -- when the data from their own report doesn't even seem to agree with their own conclusion.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    techinabox (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 11:43am

    Must be the pirates fault.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    You're never going to get interviews with the White House if you don't publish exactly what they want you to. It's sad that instead of focusing on the truth, they seem to want to push some kind of pro-IP agenda. At least it will keep the mainstream publications happy long enough to keep publishing positive news for the re-election campaign. It's sad to see how corrupt the press really has to be in order to get access to our public institutions. Maybe they should just pay you the $100 million and buy your silence instead of trying to manipulate Techdirt's reporters and readers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Keii (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 11:52am

    "Steve Jobs had lots of patents and Steve Jobs created cool products, so patents are important."
    My friends and I commonly call this the golden shower argument.
    I like gold, and I like showers, therefor I should like golden showers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 11:55am

    Re:

    Nah, probably a siezure....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    USCOD, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 11:56am

    Mr. Mansick:

    Patents lead to innovation, which clearly economy. Furthermore, IP, which benefits jobs and market, is the best performance to private sector for investment.

    Consider also, properties, and company marketplace. Protection copyright become clear. Thank you.

    Very yoursly,

    U.S. Commerce of Department

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 11:57am

    If they're going to be serving up junk like this, what Commerce really needs is bottomless fries and a tangy special sauce.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:02pm

    Re:

    THanks your inquiry! We have for~ward to ICE for your convenience politeness answers.

    DoC

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:03pm

    but the truth is irrelevant. the people that will 'believe' the Commerce Departments figures are the ones that are getting 'incentives' to believe them, ie those that are making new laws so as to preserve the industries that are giving out the 'incentives'. it just keeps going in circles from receivers of incentives to those requiring something, so give the incentives. the only ones that lose are those that actually have to pay for the end product

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Anonymous Monkey (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re:

    We won't know until ICE releases that info on what was seized.... it'd be interesting tho...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    arcan, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:11pm

    can we get all the hollywood execs to sit through a semester of a basic economics class? then they might realize all the crap their spewing is stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    MrWilson, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:11pm

    "Thus, IP conflicts arise as the byproducts of a very healthy overall innovation environment."

    Um...Tell that to all the innovators who are pulled into prolonged legal battles by IP trolls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    arcan, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:13pm

    Re:

    here is a good one.
    Micheal Phelps smokes weed.
    Micheal Phelps wins gold medals.
    Smoking weed wins you gold medals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Mike42 (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:15pm

    Maybe, in preparation for your meeting, the Commerce Department finally read the report.

    Oops!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:21pm

    Indexed Employment Graph Goes up at the end

    I wonder how they know that, what with a recession and all?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:22pm

    Re:

    Dear Department Commerce of U.S.:

    All your base are belong to us.
    Move ZIG.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    PlagueSD (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:23pm

    Re:

    Pro-IP agenda, don't you mean propaganda? Also, the press has been corrupt for a couple of years now. I've stopped watching network news for that reason. As sad as it sounds, I get my news from satire shows like The Daily Show and Colbert Report.


    Ever since Corporations have become people, our government is no longer "for the people, by the people". Oh, wait...Yes they are, they just changed the definition of people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    arcan, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re:

    there might actually be knowledge to be found in these statements. unfortunately it is all bound by national security...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re:

    a couple of year?

    Where have you been for the past century?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:28pm

    But, but...

    Steve Jobs!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Indexed Employment Graph Goes up at the end

    It was probably 2011 preliminary data at the time the report was published.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:35pm

    Cats are black. Cannonballs are black. Therefore, cats are cannonballs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:56pm

    Re:

    It's sad that instead of focusing on the truth, they seem to want to push some kind of pro-IP agenda.


    What did you expect with pro-IP Joe Biden in office?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    VMax, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:58pm

    Re:

    Now I'm envisioning someone trying to stuff a panther into a cannon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 12:59pm

    Re:

    Why yes they are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    ECA (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:08pm

    Patents dont make a job
    trade marks dont make a company
    IP dont write a book
    A COW dont make a meal

    A cow dont make a meal until you slaughter it, Cut it up, add a few vegetables..

    IT DOES take a DUCK to make a quack.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm going to have to invoke godwin's law for this one.

    1. Hitler caused the deaths of a massive number of people.
    2. The sun was in the sky the entire time Hitler did all that.
    3. Therefor, the sun must be responsible for Hitler causing all those deaths.

    Alternatively, replace 'the sun was in the sky' with 'puppies existed in germany' and you've got an anti-puppy argument that still makes more sense than their Steve Jobs 'example'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    Umm, have you seen the damage a cat can do? Your argument may not be as far fetched as you seem to think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The answer is obvious...WE MUST INVADE THE SUN!

    INVADE THE SUN
    INVADE THE SUN
    INVADE THE SUN

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:25pm

    When they take something that belongs to the public and give it to one entity, they count that entity's jobs as a benefit, but they don't count the loss of jobs from all the other entities from whom it was taken.

    Plus those jobs are "created" by imposing a toll on the economy, so they are faux jobs, no different than if the government raised taxes and hired a bunch of people to dig holes and fill them back in. Why do all those people who hate taxes love tolls so much?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Keii (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Bomb the Sun! For Amurica!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    PlagueSD (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, the news started going downhill in 1981 after Walter Cronkite retired as anchorman for CBS. So, yeah, I guess that's a little longer than I thought.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    rubberpants, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Be sure to go during the night when the sun is cold.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Rich, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

    Re:

    On second thought, forget the vegetables!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    rubberpants, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

    Patents are wonderful.

    -A Patent Lawyer

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 3:23pm

    Umm, you forgot one set of numbers... you know, the one that tells the whole story:

    Unemployment in the country.

    If you IGNORE that, then you might have something. But it's not shocking to see jobs in any industry drop when the US went from 5% or so unemployment to 10% or so.

    You guys will do anything to try to make your points, including ignoring reality I guess!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 3:38pm

    Re:

    Therefore, cats are cannonballs.
    Yes... but typically very very spikey and annoyed cannonballs. It is recommended to get someone else to load the cannon for you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 4:15pm

    The classic biased scientist:
    - Having a preconception when starting to write the report.
    - Not using all data from the report in discussion and conclusion because it does not seem "right" to him.
    - Writing the summary/abstract based on only the numbers he feels are "right" and the biased discussion.
    - Making a presentation, with further analysis along the line of the numbers the scientist liked.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    The Original Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 4:41pm

    Government Statistics are Amazing

    A Bureau of Labor Statistics guy testified in front of a congressional committee the other day and agreed that bus driver jobs are considered green jobs. Since that bus driver takes people to the grocery store where they interact with other people who have IP-related jobs, couldn't the bus driver's job be counted as IP-related as well?

    There you go! That one job fills a slot in two of the administration's favorite job categories! It's a double win!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Pro-IP agenda, don't you mean propaganda?

    Hey, that’s almost an anagram! A an almost-homophone, even!

    “Proipagenda” FTW!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 4:52pm

    Re: which clearly economy.

    Therefore!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: Pro-IP agenda, don't you mean propaganda?

    Not quite, I prefer "pro-ip-aganda" (pronounced "pro-ip-a-GAN-duh").

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    But if all the base are belong to us, how did someone set up us the bomb?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 5:40pm

    Re:

    I would suggest learning what indexed data means. Wider unemployment is not an issue in this data set.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    Any Mouse (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 5:55pm

    Re: Re:

    Preferably not someone of the rodent persuasion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    Any Mouse (profile), Jun 11th, 2012 @ 5:57pm

    Re: Government Statistics are Amazing

    Taking the bus has long been accepted as a 'green' alternative to driving yourself, so this isn't too farfetched. Many bus systems are turning to bio-fuels and other, less impacting, fuel options.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 8:08pm

    Re: Re:

    Even with indexed numbers, the wave you see is relative to unemployment at any give them. It's the reason why (indexed to 1990) you have ups and downs in all areas. It can also be a driver of new developments, as people have more spare time to work on things, being that they aren't working for anyone else.

    What you are trying to do is say "patents this year, income this year", but even you are wise enough to know that income (and jobs) are trailing patents, not in front of them. A drive for more patents this year, example, might lead to more employment further down the road, when those patents are used as part of new products.

    There is no direct relationship in a given year between patents and employment. However, longer term, there may be.

    Now, let's ask the other question: What is "patent intensive" industries? As an example, are patents issued for new developments in smart phones, which are produced not by "patent intensive" industries but by IP intensive industries? Is a netbook an IP or patent industry play? Or both?

    Is the place where the lines are draw so reasonably vague as to be meaningless?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2012 @ 10:37pm

    Re:

    So your solution to unemployment is "moar patents"? Do you really think everyone can become a patent lawyer?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    ECA (profile), Jun 12th, 2012 @ 1:02am

    Re: Re:

    Patents dont make a JOB..
    They are only an idea. until they are put to building and use...They are nothing but words on paper.
    but unemployment was REALLY started during the first world war. Even before. AS men came back from Duty, the jobs they HAD, were gone. The jobs FOR the war effort, went away making even fewer jobs.
    By WWII, the same thing happened. AS they left for war, OTHERS took their place, including women. Tons of jobs for the war were created. AFTER the war? MEn returned to NO JOBS..those working in the war effort, FIRED.. It started to correct itself thru the 60's.

    but NOW...The USA has 1 person for every 3-4 WORKING..thats all. you wonder why? think about 30-40 years ago when your LOCAL area had a Group of stores. NOW you drive 5-20 miles to get there. Insted of having 10-20 local Stores with 200-300 people in each...They NOW have 1 BIG STORE with 400-500 workers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2012 @ 5:27am

    Re:

    "You guys will do anything to try to make your points, including ignoring reality I guess!"

    The irony of such a statement has surely gone overlooked by you. Lest we forget, "Artists are starving!" "Piracy is killing the entertainment industry!" Or my personal favorite, "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone."

    Reality, the entertainment industries across the board are making record profits. And have been so for consecutive years. Artists are NOT starving or in line at the unemployment line, and more have a chance to make money now than ever before. The VCR singlehandedly saved the movie studios by giving them another outlet to peddle their products.

    I could go on. But really it just makes your comment look even more hypocritical than it already is. This is seriously why trolls should think before they hit "Submit". Some of us are quite ready to turn things around on you using actual facts and evidence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2012 @ 5:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "go during the night when the sun is cold"
    This doesn't really make sense... a joke of course.. but still, huh?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2012 @ 7:36am

    Re:

    Just loading the cannon... testing the conclusion is the only scientific way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    6, Jun 12th, 2012 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "There is no direct relationship in a given year between patents and employment. However, longer term, there may be."

    There may also be a direct relationship in the long term between patents and x. Fill in x with whatever you want to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    ECA (profile), Jun 12th, 2012 @ 10:37am

    PATENT

    Patent on the extrapolation of more money for rich over lessening hours for employees.
    Consolidating locations of stores from 1 every 5 miles to 1 every 20 miles. cost savings are from Property tax, extra employee cut from 25 stores to 1 BIG STORE. shipping and distribution lowered to 1 store. tax considerations as we hire extra employees and only give them Limited hours.

    Patent
    Car that gets 50+ MPG..
    Problem..
    Taxes used for roads are CUT as you dont fuel up as much.

    Patent
    Cotton gin and other machines to Cut/Clean/Glean/Sweep fields for Cotton/corn/wheat/grains/... Cut millions of jobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    icon
    LDoBe (profile), Jun 16th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    Re:

    You do realize that the DoC's response doesn't use **ANY** relevant data, while Mike's has charts directly illustrating data relevant to the conversation....

    I'd say any true data is infinitely better than a nonsensical assertion backed up by **NO DATA AT ALL**

    essentially:
    DoC: patents make jobs, because Jobs had patents
    Mike: There is no evidence in the report that patents make jobs. The number of patents being issued per year has been increasing over the past 25 years, but there has been no correlation to patent related job growth as evidenced by your own graph.

    Which sounds like a better argument?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    ECA (profile), Jun 16th, 2012 @ 3:47pm

    Re: Re:

    RE-worded...

    Its better to say that PATENTS CAN, make jobs.

    But the real problem comes with WHERE' are the jobs created..

    The discontinuity, comes with the VALUE of money.
    Do you want our money Worth as much as China, korea, indonesia??
    IF we had FEWER taxes, NO RENT to pay, LOWER BILLS(in my dreams) I would take a LOWER pay check..
    Those on TOP are looking to Make the USA monetary VALUE LOWER... AND get more money doing it.
    At least look that way..
    Comparison:
    The Value of money BEFORE 2000 and AFTER..
    DUMP tons of money into the market and VALUE stays the same, but you get increased WAGES ON TOP..(those wages based on VALUE)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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