New IP initiative launched to help improve understanding of IP’s importance to wider economy

A new not-for-profit has been launched to help promote better understanding of the importance and value of IP to the wider economy. The organisation, called the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), is undertaking a range of projects in 2017 to help it achieve its aims, including a survey of general and business audiences on attitudes to IP rights, a conference on innovation policy to be held in Washington DC and a white paper on how the media covers IP matters.

Its creation is in many ways a response to the battering that IP’s public image has taken over the last several years, particularly in the US. In that time a series of Supreme Court decisions are widely seen to have undermined patent rights; the idea of efficient infringement has taken root; and the “patent troll” narrative has gained wider traction in many parts the media.

“In the court of public opinion patents in particular have fared very poorly thanks to things like litigation and the “troll” concept,” commented CIPU chairman Bruce Berman of Brody Berman Associates (and an IAM columnist). “We need to do a better job to show the good side.”

As well as being headed by Berman, CIPU includes former IBM and Microsoft IP supremo Marshall Phelps as vice-chairman. A number of other high profile IP figures have helped with getting the Center off the ground. These include Philips CIPO Brian Hinman, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Paul Michel and former USPTO Director David Kappos. Microsoft, Philips and Duke University are among those providing support. 

According to Berman the importance of IP has fallen both in the minds of most people and a lot of companies. “Individuals that buy counterfeit goods and companies that infringe on IP rights reflect a kind of culture of diminished respect for IP rights,” he reflected on a call with the IAM blog. That, he said, reflects some vested interests that don’t benefit from strong IP, but also that a message about IP’s importance to the wider economy is not being taught or at least is not getting through. Berman admitted that other organisations such as the IPO Education Foundation and LES provide some IP education initiatives, but he said he hoped that CIPU would be able to drill down into people’s attitudes and provide more detail on IP’s broader benefits.

The primary goals of the Center are focused around education not lobbying, but Berman indicated that there could be a role in helping legislators and their staff better understand IP’s role in the economy.

Few readers of this blog would argue with the notion that IP’s image has suffered in recent years and many will undoubtedly welcome the new initiative. One of the challenges it faces is that all sides of the IP debate have become so entrenched that they have become like echo chambers, unable or unwilling to address the concerns and opinions of others. One challenge for the Center will therefore be to break through these damaged lines of dialogue. Berman has built a long career from communicating IP’s value in various forms, but this might be his toughest pitch yet.  

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