From The Deseret News:
The U.S. economy runs on startups. For all of America’s brand-name mega-corporations, it’s young firms that create most of our new jobs during periods of economic growth.
Those startups, in turn, depend on America’s famously strong laws protecting their patented inventions and other intellectual property. The only way someone with a big idea but minimal resources can outcompete established firms is through proper government protection of their innovations.
Today, we are failing in that responsibility. Instead, our laxity is empowering predators foreign and domestic — endangering not only the next Apple, Microsoft, or Facebook, but our entire economy.
For years, the greatest threat to American intellectual property has been China. As our economy became more globalized and digitized, Chinese IP piracy became endemic — totaling an estimated $600 billion in costs to the U.S. economy per year. In 2019, a CNBC survey of American corporations found that nearly one-third of respondents had experienced IP theft by Chinese pirates in the past decade. Testifying before Congress in 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “I think it’s well documented that the Chinese government steals technology from American companies.”
More telling than Zuckerberg’s acknowledgment, however, was the strange but unmistakable equivocation by the other Big Tech executives at the hearing. When asked the same question, the CEOs of Apple, Amazon and Google — individuals famous for their breadth of knowledge and laser focus on their businesses — all shrugged and testified only that they hadn’t personally seen any Chinese IP piracy.
While many, including the U.S. Attorney General, slammed them for “kowtowing” to Beijing, there is another reason those firms might not want to shine too bright a light on IP theft: it’s become a valuable part of their own business models.
. . . .
Early this month, the U.S. International Trade Commission issued a final ruling finding that Google infringed on five patents belonging to Sonos, a company that makes smart speakers. The story is a worst-case scenario for a startup innovator. Over a decade ago, Sonos developed one of the most advanced wireless audio systems in the market — a product so impressive that Google wanted to partner with the company on it. Sonos alleges that early in the partnership, Google lifted Sonos-patented technology for Google’s own audio equipment — and continued doing so for future products despite Sonos calling the tech giant out for infringement.
Sonos’s experience was no fluke. Google faced 48 patent infringement lawsuits in 2021.
That’s more than any other company, but Google is certainly not the only alleged perpetrator.
Sonos has accused Amazon of stealing the same technologies for use in its Echo audio systems. Additionally, in 2020, a federal jury ordered Amazon to pay $5 million to Texas-based Vocalife for infringing on its patents to make Echo. Meanwhile, Apple was recently ordered to pay $300 million in damages to Optis Wireless Technology for patent infringement.
It’s no accident, then, that the number of IP lawsuits rose in 2020 for the first time since 2015, and court awards rose to $4.67 billion from just $1.5 billion in 2019.
It also makes holding China to account much harder. After all, if the richest and most powerful businesses in America are ignoring our intellectual property laws — supposedly some of the strongest in the world — why shouldn’t our global adversaries?
The real issue here isn’t complicated: When laws against theft aren’t vigorously enforced, thieves are going to steal. That’s true as much for sophisticated IP infringement as it is for the wave of organized shoplifting in California today. With billions of dollars at stake, slaps on the wrist or gentle nudges aren’t going to deter highly motivated pickpockets in Beijing, Silicon Valley, or anywhere else. Congress has to tighten up our IP laws and stiffen penalties, and the Justice Department needs to ramp up enforcement while there are still innovative American startups left to save.
Link to the rest at The Deseret News
PG says authors shouldn’t rest easy because the OP talks about patents instead of copyrights. Ebook piracy is at a significant level. Overpricing of ebooks by traditional publishing is certainly a motivation, but pirates aren’t known for staying away from indie authors as well.
When a friend talks about a great new website where all sorts of ebooks are marked way down from the prices Amazon charges, don’t hesitate to explain that it’s likely a pirate site. In addition to preventing authors from being paid for their works, piracy destinations are also known as great places to get your computer or tablet infected with malware. Then, it’s possible your friend will share the malware with all of her friends as well.
If you have to trash a computer or even a hard drive due to malware, a new one will cost you much more than any number of ebooks would have on Amazon. If you have to hire someone to come in to remove the malware, that’s also going to cost a lot of money. If you lose all your tax information or your manuscripts, that’s another potentially expensive consequence. If your friends get infected from your computer and have to spend money cleaning up their problems, you may not get invited out to lunch in the future.
And if you find a copy of a NYT bestseller that usually costs $19.95 that only costs 99 cents, conveniently payable by credit card, you may find your life gets a lot more complicated as well. Think of how your significant other will respond to $5,000 in new charges on your joint credit card.
Yes, you may be able to get some or all charges reversed, but, depending on the circumstances, you may not. At a minimum, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time explaining to some suspicious credit card employees how you were so stupid as to fall for a well-known scam.
To be clear, PG isn’t saying that every pirate site for free ebooks is infected with malware, but enough are that it’s a good idea to stay away from all of them because the potential for an expensive loss is greater than any money you might save in the short run. Besides, cheating authors whose books you like is really low.
Pulling back to a longer philosophic perspective, PG has learned that life will be more pleasant and easier for a person who doesn’t act like a jerk.