Last week, the Department of Commerce issued its Exit Memo as the Obama administration comes to a close and the next President takes office later this month. The report features hardly any references to the USPTO or to patent and trademark protections. I find this rather shocking  and disappointing. The USPTO makes up a sizable percentage of the department’s overall budget – approximately one-quarter of it. Yet the USPTO’s activities and IP protection merit just a few sentences in the 15 page Exit Memo.

For the full report, see https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/cabinet/exit-memos/department-commerce.

In the memo’s conclusion from Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, a different department is imagined (note that the re-organization, elimination, or consolidation of the department has been proposed many times, including a consolidation with SBA, USTR, and more by proposed by President Obama in 2012. Notably, the description for the future department in Secretary Pritzker’s conculsion is absent of any direct reference to intellectual property protections.

“I have come to believe that American businesses and the American taxpayer would be much better served by a streamlined “Department of Business,” similar to the President’s 2012 government reorganization proposal. A reorganized Department with a unified strategic plan for trade negotiations and enforcement, economic development, export financing, production of economic statistics and data, technology, and other business-focused services would provide stronger customer service to American businesses competing in a global economy.”

This lack of attention to trademarks and patents is quite shocking to an IP practitioner, of course. Especially in lights of the government’s recent report that intellectual property has an enormous impact on the US economy. Novemgber 2016 report called Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: 2016 Update was produced by the Economics & Statistics Administration (EAS) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Here are some key quotes from the report regarding the significance of IP and trademarks:

  • This report shows that IP-intensive industries continue to be a major, integral and growing part of the U.S. economy. We find that the 81 industries designated as IP-intensive directly accounted for 27.9 million jobs and indirectly supported an additional 17.6 million jobs in 2014. Together, this represented 29.8 percent of all jobs in the U.S. The total value added by IP-intensive industries amounted to 38.2 percent of U.S. GDP and IP-intensive industries paid 47 percent higher weekly wages compared to other industries.
  • Trademark-intensive industries are the largest in number and contribute the most employment with 23.7 million jobs in 2014 (up from 22.6 million in 2010). Copyright-intensive industries supplied 5.6 million jobs (compared to 5.1 million in 2010) followed by patent-intensive industries with 3.9 million jobs (3.8 million in 2010).

Given their incredible value and role in the economy of the US, the absence of a detailed discussion of patents and trademarks in the Exit Memo from the Department of Commerce is troubling.

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