US Trade Rep Promises Transparency... But Actions Speak Louder Than Websites

from the I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it dept

The US Trade Representative has finally finished the long overdue task of relaunching its website. Among such spiffy new features as a blog and an interactive map, the USTR has promised to fulfill Obama's pledge "to advance the social accountability and political transparency of trade policy." And while these are nice and all, the promise rings somewhat hollow.

Even though Obama's nominee, Ron Kirk, had just begun his term as the new US Trade Representative, the 2009 Special 301 that was released in April continued the ridiculous fallacies of years past. Even worse, for an organization pledging transparency, the process of researching and writing the Special 301 reports is notoriously secretive, blocking out NGOs, consumer groups and citizens. Instead, IP maximalist industry groups collaborate with USTR bureaucrats to write draconian US government reports that serve to alienate nations and harm innovation around the world. If Ambassodor Kirk and Obama want a USTR that does advance social accountability and political transparency, it would do well to be open in substance, not style. Perhaps a good place to let them know would be their new "Ask the Ambassador" feature.

Filed Under: transparency, ustr


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  1. icon
    JustMe (profile), 4 Jun 2009 @ 5:39am

    Re: Ron

    First, I'm unsure why you bring up domestic IP thieves. There is already a process to deal with this issue, and it doesn't involved anyone outside of the US.

    Second, while I understand the concept I think you are trying to convey, it isn't really a "tax." It is more likely to be lost potential revenue, but even that is debatable - especially given the very large numbers of patent hoarders in the US. So I would appreciate your thoughts on someone who buys up a patent with no intention of using it (in the way it was intended to be used). Under your analogy they would also be guilty of imposing a tax on America.

    Third, forgive my ignorance, but aren't patents only valid in the country in which they were issued? I do realize they can be licensed by someone in another country, but the first two letters of the USPTO are sort of a giveaway here, right?

    It seems like the USTR (and you) are advocating that we use international agreements to extend of reach of national patent offices in to other countries? This seems fraught with danger and smacks of the Big Stick mentality of Roosevelt. There are also strong arguments to be made that the developed countries use patents (and similar instruments) to limit growth and access to goods and services in the developing world. Assume a patent on water desalination. I agree the fictional US owner of the patent deserves to be compensated for the development of the technology. However, what if the price is 1 million dollars per unit while fine people in Bangladesh are dieing every day. And yeah, I know this example is meant to play on the heartstrings but it is still true. How about when patents are used to stifle small businesses and drive them out of the market? Ref: Monsanto suing the farmers who don't choose to buy they seeds because (surprise) wind and bugs happen to move pollen to the next field.

    How would you resolve disputes concerning independent concurrent development or incremental development? A good example of this is the 'inventor' of radio, pick one: Guglielmo Marconi, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Popov, Sir Oliver Lodge, Reginald Fessenden, Heinrich Hertz, Amos Dolbear, Mahlon Loomis, Nathan Stubblefield and James Clerk Maxwell. What happens when the winner isn't from America? There is also the matter of retroactive and ongoing damages. Where do you draw the line? Assume that Marconi was the inventor of radio. Should everyone from RKO to Clearchannel to 'mad dog wolfman on hot 99.5 FM' be liable for infringing on Marconi's patent?

    I don't know. These are serious questions that need to be discussed. However, I don't think that banging the drums of nationalism or secret agreements is really the best solution.

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