You can only talk about so many “urgent,” “pressing,” or “huge” problems facing America before the rhetoric starts to wear thin and expose your true values, and that is exactly what is happening to President Obama in his call to overhaul our Constitutionally enshrined patent system. But Republican leaders in Congress are taking the bait, pushing for a vote within the next few weeks on legislation that will reward Obama’s corporate cronies, harm American innovation, and hand a major victory to our economic competitors like China.
Obama has said that the issue is one of the “biggest problems” our nation is facing. And while there may be plenty of bigger fish for our Commander in Chief to fry right now, that hasn’t stopped him from manufacturing an alleged crisis in our technology sector and pushing Congress to overhaul the patent system.
It should come as no surprise that Google, Obama’s top corporate crony, is one of the companies that stands to benefit most from an overhaul of the patent system. With the Obama administration in its pocket, Google has put the full might of its formidable lobbying resources into pressuring Republican Congressional leadership to act quickly. But Republicans should beware. If Google succeeds in getting Congress to support its agenda, we should not expect the results to benefit America innovators. One Google-backed policy proposal supported by Obama, for example, would have classified leading research institutions like MIT as “patent trolls.”
In addition to its stench of cronyism, Obama’s urgency in trying to overhaul the current patent system strikes a chord of hypocrisy. His administration’s complete mismanagement of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office set a historic record by leaving the top administrator job at the agency vacant for two years. And when he finally announced a nominee, it was former Google exec Michelle Lee – part of the revolving door of cronyism between Google and the administration.
The push to overhaul the patent system is just the latest of many examples showing that Obama and Google are far too close on policy matters. With the debate is in full swing as members return from recess, and House leadership pushing for a vote within the next few weeks, Republicans in Congress should be wary of trusting Google’s motives. Congress needs to take the time for due consideration of this complex issue and its complex legislation so as to ensure that they don’t hurt American innovators and hand an advantage to our economic adversaries like China. They should not operate under [mc_name name=’Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000197′ ] principles of having to pass a bill to see what’s in it.
Erik Telford is president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.