The number of Leftist interests and household names lining up to oppose patent reform continues to mount. Now, on top of trial lawyers, university administrators, and the architects of Obamacare, patent reform can add the New York Times op-ed page to their ranks.
And not just any op-ed page writer, oh no. No, this particular anti-reform rant comes courtesy of Joe Nocera, the man who has called Tea Partiers “terrorists” and accused Republicans of wanting to poison peoples’ food (despite never having met them until adulthood). Although, as at least one enthusiastic pro-troll blog blared, Nocera has won the Gerald Loeb Award, an award that has gone to the likes of Paul Krugman in 2011, and a veritable who’s who of Leftist polemicists along with him. Hey, I guess some prize is better than no prize. Just ask President Obama about the Nobel Peace Prize.
It’s tempting to leave off here and simply ask why any serious conservative would bother even giving the benefit of a doubt to a cause that attracts such dubious allies. But, alas, Thomas Massie and Ted Cruz seem to have done so, so here we are. Fortunately, like most NYT op-eds, Nocera’s piece is more a specimen of pearl clutching on behalf of favored Leftist interest groups than a serious critique of patent reform, so dismantling it is fairly easy.
Nocera begins by asking whether the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a patent troll. The question is plainly rhetorical, and meant to be read in the sort of gasping, concerned voice that one would hear from the nearest English professor at a cocktail party. However, ironically, Nocera could have saved himself the process of writing this entire embarrassing op-ed if he’d simply consulted Business Insider, which labels the UWM-affiliated entity he’s referring to — the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) — as one of the eight worst patent trolls in the market. Our gasping English professor is going to have to sit down.
Nocera then proceeds with the stunning assertion that “nobody thinks a university is a patent troll.” Again, this is the sort of thing that could only pass if you spend your time running with New York Times readers. No less an entity than Stanford Law School Professor Mark Lemley asks the question “Are Universities Patent Trolls?” in a journal article, and concludes that yes, sometimes, they are. I suppose Lemley doesn’t attend enough Manhattan press junkets to realize the error of his ways.
From there, things only get worse. Nocera proceeds to inform us that “Universities are supposed to come up with new ideas, not manufacture new products. That’s what companies do. If a university holds a scientist’s patent, the main way it gets the innovation into the hands of a company is through a licensing agreement.” He wrings his hands over the question of whether these poor universities (and, one presumes, their professors) might be cheated by big, mean companies like Apple. And he calls the outrageous $234 million verdict against Apple in its legal battle with WARF a win for Apple because “$234 million is pocket change for Apple.”
Never mind that most of the time, universities aren’t selling to companies, but to actual patent trolls.
Ignore also the fact that many professors actually dislike patents because they regard them as a way for administrators to take credit for their scientific discoveries while limiting the spread of knowledge, and that patent reform itself clearly will not hurt professors.
And as for the $234 million verdict being “pocket change for Apple,” only in the kind of airy fairy class resentment-infused world of New York-based op ed writers could anyone call $234 million “pocket change.” How many thousands of jobs will be lost, or never created, because of that verdict, let alone the legal fees associated with the 9 out of 10 patent lawsuits by trolls of which Apple is a target? All that money that could’ve been spent on innovation and jobs funneled to lawyers and university administrators, and for what? So UWM can put Persian rugs and solid gold crayons in its safe spaces?
Nocera’s op-ed is an embarrassment to anyone who understands the patent system, the legal system, or the means by which human knowledge is spread and innovation is encouraged. It is the kind of envious, dishonest, socialist trash that the New York Times has been publishing, and for which it has been winning meaningless Lefty awards, for years.
Conservatives should take note that this is what it takes to defend the patent system as it presently exists. And knowing that, they should ask themselves why they’re doing it, too.