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— but when we submitted some questions (as they asked us to do prior to setting up the final interview), they suddenly rescinded that offer and offered up this bizarre and nonsensical statement about how Steve Jobs had lots of patents and Steve Jobs created cool products, so patents are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:

<img src=”” width=560″ />
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.

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Comments on “Commerce Department's Own Study Debunks Commerce Department's Defense Of Said Study”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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

PlagueSD says:


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.

That One Guy (profile) says:


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’.

BentFranklin (profile) says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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!

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

LDoBe (profile) says:

Re: 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**

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?

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:


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..
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)

The Original Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

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!

Anonymous Coward says:


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?

ECA (profile) says:


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.

Anonymous Coward says:


“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.

ECA (profile) says:


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.

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

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

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