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US IP awareness body launched

February 15, 2017

By Colin Mann

The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU), a new non-profit organisation devoted to increasing awareness of IP rights and their impact on peoples’ lives, has been launched with an ambitious programme of activities for 2017.

According to the CIPU, misunderstanding about what IP rights achieve, and for whom, costs the US and other economies billions of dollars annually and threatens American competitiveness. The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding’s mission is to increase awareness of the benefits of IP among diverse audiences, and promote a more positive attitude that deters theft and minimises disputes.

Among the CIPU’s 2017 initiatives are a joint conference on innovation policy with Duke University in Washington, DC in the autumn; an independent survey of general and business audiences’ attitudes toward IP rights; and a white paper on differences in how various media cover patent disputes. Education grants to develop new and innovative ways to teach students about IP’s impact are also planned.

“The IP knowledge gap is growing,” said Marshall Phelps, former head of IP at Microsoft and IBM and CIPU’s Vice Chairman. “Many people, including the general public and many in government, haven’t a clue what patents and other IP rights achieve. The incentive for taking IP seriously is at an all-time low. The Center for Intellectual Property Understanding will engage groups like schools, parents and the media about the benefits of respecting new ideas and the impact of failing to.”

IP executives who helped to establish CIPU include Brian Hinman (head of IP at Philips), Keith Bergelt (Open Invention Network CEO) and Harry Gwinnell (former head of IP at Cargill and founding President of the IPO Education Foundation). Judge Paul Michel (Chief Judge of the CAFC 2003-2011) helped to lay the ground work for the organization, and former USPTO Commissioner David Kappos has been following CIPU development and focus. Sources of support for CIPU include Microsoft, Duke University and Philips.

James Pooley, a highly-regarded expert on trade secrets, is on the executive advisory board, and Irv Rappaport, former Chief Patent Counsel for Apple and Medtronic, and an inventor and former USPTO examiner, also was instrumental in providing direction, as was Jonathan Taplin, the film producer and Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“We have entered the ‘free-information’ era, where online content and patented inventions are readily pocketed by those who would never dream of shoplifting,” said Bruce Berman, CIPU Chairman, and CEO of Brody Berman Associates. “Products like music, books, novel designs, inventions and counterfeit goods appear to be there for the taking – or feel as if they should be. Uncertainty about what IP rights cover and their appropriate use compound the problem. CIPU will address these and other issues.”

“IP confusion is costly for consumers and businesses alike,” continued Phelps, who is a member of the IP Hall of Fame. “Free-riders – unauthorised users of IP-protected products and works – come in many shapes and sizes. They impact performance and investment, as well as job creation. IP awareness and acceptable behaviours are too important to be left to audiences to decide on their own.”



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