In his radio broadcast of Wednesday, June 18, Rush Limbaugh delivered a dire warning… albeit a warning that few listeners will be able to relate to in their private lives. He reported on the decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to attack the property rights of the Washington Redskins, revoking their trademark rights to the Redskins name and logo. Rush reminded his listeners that, on January 9 of this year, he predicted that “the way the feds are going to ‘get the Redskins’ is (through) the federal trademark office.”
He asked his listeners to imagine the federal government eliminating their private-property rights because of the interpretation of political correctness by a “very tiny minority” of people, ostensibly because they are “offended by something that you own…” He went on to say that they do this “because of political correctness, because they’re liberals, because they’re statists and authoritarians…”
He concluded by saying, “What happened to the Redskins is neither the first nor the last assault on private-property rights that citizens can expect to witness.” He cautioned, “Cheer if you want, but scoffers need to remember that no one is safe when the protections of a constitutional republic are stripped away.”
There is no doubt that the U.S. patent and trademark system has been the “engine” of our economy since the day it was written into the U.S. Constitution in 1787. No other nation on Earth has a patent and trademark system like ours, a system that has the potential of creating great personal wealth for anyone who knows how to “build a better mousetrap.” Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, two of the most innovative minds among our Founding Fathers, were both prolific inventors, but neither of them could possibly have imagined the scope of what they set in motion.
However, having created an economy and a standard of living far beyond what is available anywhere else in the world, particularly in nations of the Third World, it was to be expected that our patent and copyright system would one day come under attack by foreign interests.
In April 1997, I was minding my own business at my remote hideaway amid the hills and lakes of eastern Oklahoma when I received a telephone call from Washington. I was being recruited as part of a three-man team to take on a very important project. Our job was to kill Senate Bill 507, the Omnibus Patent Reform Act of 1997, and H.400, the House version of the bill.
But first, a bit of history. In 1996, the Clinton administration agreed to give the People’s Republic of China a complete set of magnetic tapes from the U.S. Patent Office computers, containing every iota of U.S. technology registered with the patent office in the previous 160 years. For those who have wondered what the Chinese received in exchange for the millions of dollars they poured into the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign in 1996, we finally had an answer. However, when the editor of an internal Commerce Department newsletter unwittingly exposed the scheme all hell broke loose and the offer was withdrawn. It was then that Bill Clinton and Al Gore, at the behest of the Japanese and the Chinese, caused legislation to be introduced in the Congress that would have literally decimated the U.S. patent system.
When the legislation was described to me I thought it must be some terrible joke. No American president could possibly think it was a good idea… unless, of course, he owed a huge debt of gratitude to the Chinese and he was more concerned about that than he was about the economic security of the American people. The legislation we were hired to defeat would have damaged or destroy the U.S. patent system, to the benefit of our foreign trading partners.
We had a difficult task ahead of us. On our first day in Washington the House of Representatives passed its version of the bill, H.400, on a voice vote. Not a single member of the House called for a recorded vote. They voted to destroy one of the most important core functions of the federal government, and they did it on a voice vote… without a single public hearing.
The Clinton legislation proposed that the Department of Commerce relinquish its control over the U.S. Patent Office, and that the patent office would become a new government corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the federal government. They further proposed that the patent office be controlled by an advisory board comprised of six individuals drawn from the private sector… many, if not all, with vested interests in patent office decisions.
They proposed that the patent office be authorized to accept gifts of cash, or anything else of value, without limit, from any and all sources, including individuals, corporations, foreign businessmen, and foreign governments. There was not even a prohibition against contributions from individuals and corporations with patents pending.
They proposed that the patent office be authorized to borrow money and to create debt, without congressional approval, and to retire debt by increasing patent fees… in effect, giving the patent office the power to levy taxes. They simply ignored the fact that, under provisions of the U.S. Constitution, only the Congress has the power to tax.
In order to attract the support of America’s largest multinational corporations, the authors of the bill included two provisions that would allow corporations, foreign and domestic, as well as foreign governments, to literally steal intellectual properties without the necessity of paying royalties. First, they proposed that the Patent Office be required to make public all technical details of every new patent application just eighteen months after the inventor filed for a patent… on average, some two and one-half years before the inventor would receive patent protection… with the entire world looking on.
U.S. patent law has always required that all technical details of every patent application be held in strictest confidence by the patent office until the inventor received patent protection. In effect, there would no longer be patent protection for anyone except those with deep enough pockets to defend themselves in multi-million dollar court challenges.
Finally, they proposed the establishment of a system of “patent reexaminations” in which any person or corporation, for a $2,000 filing fee, could cause any existing patent to be reexamined by the patent office. Under provisions of H.400 and S.507, the inventor would be prohibited from using, licensing, or exploiting his or her patented technology in any way while the patent was under reexamination. And while the reexamination process could take years to complete, the clock would continue to run on the inventor’s seventeen-year patent term.
Of course, if the inventor were able to successfully defend his patent, those who wished to steal his technology would have others standing in line to file for additional reexaminations. Rather than face personal bankruptcy through the legal costs of endless reexaminations, most inventors would gladly sell their rights to their patents for pennies on the dollar.
If ever there was an outright invitation to corruption, the Clinton-Gore Omnibus Patent Reform Act of 1997 was it. There was nothing in it for the American people, but when we looked to see who was supporting the bills we could understand their motivation. We found ourselves arrayed against the president and vice president of the United States, the People’s Republic of China, the Japanese government, the Indonesian Lippo Group, and more than eighty U.S. multinational corporations, including, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, General Electric, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Motorola, Coca-Cola, and dozens more.
We were up against the most powerful coalition of political and moneyed interests on Earth, and the bill they were supporting was potentially more damaging to our country than if we’d lost World War II to the Germans and Japanese, or if we’d lost the Cold War to the Soviets, and it was all done at the behest of a leftist administration in the White House… much like the Obama administration’s decision to revoke the Washington Redskins’ right to use their name and logo.
With a bit of skillful maneuvering behind the scenes, we were able to defeat S.507 in the U.S. Senate. However, I will never forget the day we found ourselves going from senate office to senate office, following close on the heels of a small group of corporate CEOs, led by none other than Microsoft’s Bill Gates, undoing any damage they might have done. As we visited with one western senator he shook his head, and said, “You know, I have a big problem with a guy who makes $13 million a day coming in here ‘whining’ about how tough things are for him.”
But liberals never give up. The problems confronted by the Washington Redskins are only more proof that if at first they don’t succeed, liberals will try and try again. As German theologian Martin Niemőller said, “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Today they came after the Washington Redskins; who will it be tomorrow? In November, the voters must begin to send the message that, like crime, political correctness does not pay. There can be no better way to accomplish that end than by voting against every Democrat on the ballot. It is they who are the principal purveyors and the principal beneficiaries of political correctness.