Every few years, the White House updates its Strategy for American Innovation and asks for comments from the public. EFF’s submission explains that overly restrictive intellectual property regimes can stifle innovation by limiting the ability of researchers to build upon existing knowledge. Our comments address three topics on that theme.
Patents: A flood of low-quality software patents has fueled the growth of patent trolling. These lawsuits are especially harmful to innovative small businesses and startups. EFF urges the Administration do more to improve patent quality and to support legislative reform (such as the Innovation Act which passed the House last year) to reduce abusive patent litigation.
Open Access to Knowledge: Our innovative future relies upon understanding the knowledge of the past and present. Unfortunately, scholarly papers are often locked up behind expensive paywalls and stored in unusable formats. For this reason, EFF urges the Administration to not only follow through with its agenda to provide public access to taxpayer-funded research, but also to make sure future policies allow for truly open access, reuse, and innovation.
DMCA Section 1201: The so called “anti-circumvention” provisions of the DMCA were ostensibly intended to stop copyright infringers from defeating anti-piracy protections added to copyrighted works. In practice, however, these provisions have been used to stifle a wide array of legitimate activities. The DMCA has been used to block competition in laser printer toner cartridges, garage door openers, videogame console accessories, computer maintenance services, and mobile phones. We urge the Administration to support legislative reform such as the Unlocking Technology Act, introduced last year by Representative Zoe Lofgren.
President Obama has already taken some positive steps on these issues (particularly to improve the patent system and promote open access). But much more remains to be done. EFF urges the Administration to prioritize reform of overly-restrictive IP regimes. This is essential for a balanced innovation policy that promotes the public interest.