Technology is the key that will unlock a brighter future for us all. We must ensure that technology continues to expand and enrich our lives without harming our privacy or security.
The technology industry drives our economy, both in Texas and nationally. Technological marvels that once shocked us now seem routine. With the recognition that technology plays an increasingly important role in our lives, my legislative agenda includes a heavy emphasis on technology issues. We must ensure that policies designed to promote the tech industry are advanced. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I also serve as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. Information technology represents the single largest sector of the economy, employing 4.3 million Americans. From software developers to cyber security experts to filmmakers, we must continue to protect intellectual property.
In 2003, I held my first three hearings as Subcommittee Chairman on piracy issues: Piracy on university campuses, piracy and the broadcast flag, and piracy related to organized crime and terrorism. Since then I have continued to focus attention on this issue. I strongly believe we need more enforcement of already-existing laws on piracy - patent and copyright holders need assurance that their inventions are protected, especially in the new digital world.
No one can deny that piracy and intellectual property theft cost American businesses billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs each year. But a double standard exists when a vast majority people who would never shoplift a CD at a record store think nothing when it comes to downloading entire albums from peer-to-peer networks. Both shoplifting and downloading copyright protected material are illegal and represent a direct threat to artists, software developers, and others whose livelihoods depend on their creations. But technology mandates are not the answer - the answer on many of these issues can be found within the private sector, not through government mandates. We must find ways to protect intellectual property while working with, not against, our technology industry.
In 2006, I advanced historic legislation to reform music licensing and bring the multi-billion dollar music industry into the digital age. The legislation will make it possible for legal music services to offer a full range of music to consumers. When consumers can legally purchase what they want, when they want it, they will be less likely to download pirated music.
In 2005, the President signed into law the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, which I introduced. Included in the legislation was the Family Movie Act, which allows parents to use technology to shield their children from profanity, sex and violence in movies they watch at home. The Family Movie Act lets parents decide for themselves what their children watch in the family room by establishing that using technology to skip over a movie's video or audio content does not violate federal copyright law. It's the electronic equivalent of using a remote control to mute the sound or fast-forward over offensive content. The Act also contains several legislative provisions to protect copyrighted works
When criminal activity is prevalent, it affects our security - both personal and economic. What is true of traditional crime is also true of cyber crime. Whether it occurs in cyberspace or the street, crime is still crime.
If the Internet is the superhighway of information, the express lane ramp to that superhighway is broadband technology. But unfortunately most rural communities do not have access to it. These communities need the same technological advantages as their urban counterparts. Speed and accessibility are the keys to competition in our ever-changing world. Widespread broadband deployment is essential to maintain American technological leadership and economic growth Policies to promote broadband include tax credits for businesses deploying high-speed broadband to rural and underserved areas.
In 2006 I supported H.R. 5252, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act when it passed the House. This bill streamlines the cable franchising process to increase the number of providers of video, voice, and data services. Fostering a competitive environment in the marketplace will result in faster deployment of broadband services and benefit consumers. In addition, I introduced an amendment to H.R. 5252 that safeguards "net neutrality" by holding broadband providers accountable under antitrust law. The amendment passed with strong bipartisan support.
Internet Tax Moratorium
Consumers who choose the convenience of online commerce should not face unfair taxes. Since 1998, there has been a moratorium that bars multiple and discriminatory taxes and access charges from being levied on the Internet. In 2004, I supported legislation to extend the ban until November 1, 2007. I have also cosponsored legislation to make the moratorium permanent.
The protection of intellectual property rights and the freedom to exchange goods and services are essential principles of democracy. I have seen firsthand how technology drives our economy and improves the quality of living for all Americans. We must do whatever we can to ensure this industry has the tools it needs to compete in the global market. When inventors who develop new ideas and products have confidence that their intellectual property is protected, new products make it to the market, more jobs are created, and all Americans benefit.
For these reasons, in 2005 I introduced the Patent Reform Act, which will improve the quality of patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and reform certain patent practices that disrupt the operations of high-tech companies and other businesses.
This legislation is the most comprehensive change to U.S. patent law since Congress passed the 1952 Patent Act. The bill will eliminate legal gamesmanship from the current system that rewards lawsuit abuses over creativity. It will enhance the quality of patents and increase public confidence in their legal integrity.
Comprehensive patent reform will benefit all businesses, small and large. All industries directly or indirectly affected by patents, including finance, automotive manufacturing, high-tech, and pharmaceuticals, will profit. Meaningful reform will not happen quickly, but I am committed to working with all stakeholders to accomplish this goal.
The Patent Act:
*Provides that the right to a patent will be awarded to the first inventor to file for a patent who provides an adequate disclosure for a claimed invention;
*Simplifies the process by which an applicant takes an oath governing the particulars of an invention and the identity of the rightful inventor;
*Deletes the "best mode" requirement from §112 of the Patent Act, which lists certain "specifications" that an inventor must set forth in an application;
*Codifies the law related to inequitable conduct in connection with patent proceedings before the PTO;
*Clarifies the rights of an inventor to damages for patent infringement;
*Authorizes courts with jurisdiction over patent cases to grant injunctions in accordance with the principles of equity to prevent the violation of patent rights;
*Authorizes the PTO to limit by regulation the circumstances in which patent applicants may file a continuation and still be entitled to priority date of the parent application;
*Expands the 18 month publication feature to all applications;
*Creates a new post grant opposition system;
*Allows third-party submission of prior art within six months after the date of publication of the patent application.
Finally, basic research spawns the technology of tomorrow. For technological advancement to march forward, research and development must be encouraged. I have advocated that we must make the necessary investments in basics research to ensure that the United States continues its technological dominance. Our security, economy and well-being depend on it.