TAKEAWAY: The Biden administration is expected to renew support for federal funding of R&D and take steps to strengthen enforcement of IP rights through diplomatic and legal channels.
According to major media outlets, as of Saturday, November 7, 2020, Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. While certification of the election results is pending, his website buildbackbetter.com sets forth details about the transition in administration, identifying Agency Review Teams (ARTs) preparing for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their cabinet to “hit the ground running on Day One.”
While the incoming administration has a number of more pressing issues to tackle, changes in agency leadership and policy relating to IP rights are expected.
As to leadership, announcements regarding the officials likely to be appointed to lead the USPTO and other agencies implicating IP rights have yet to be made. For the USPTO, members of the Department of Commerce ART presumably would be involved in preliminary discussions on political appointments.
As to policy, the Biden-Harris campaign platform had promised to “mak[e] a national commitment to get off the sidelines as competitors are making aggressive public investments in science and technology to take over global leadership in the most advanced technologies.” The campaign also criticized the idea of “invent it here, make it there,” stating that new products resulting from taxpayer-funded research “should be made in the U.S. or the company should reimburse the government for its support.”
Biden has experience working with the USPTO. As Vice President during the Obama administration, he led the National Cancer Moonshot initiative aimed at expediting research for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. This included implementing a Cancer Immunotherapy Pilot Program at the USPTO, also called Patents 4 Patients, a program that is still in place and has been extended to June 2022. Under this program, cancer immunotherapy-related patent applications are eligible for accelerated examination without an extra fee. The Biden-Harris Transition Team has identified COVID-19 and climate change as priorities for immediate action, both areas in which innovation is plays an important role.
With respect to IP enforcement, the Biden-Harris campaign vowed to confront foreign efforts to steal American IP, including possible sanctions. Vice President-elect Harris, in her current role as U.S. senator, introduced legislation that would expand the legal tools available to redress victims of trade theft, particularly misappropriation of trade secrets, in the Deterring Espionage by Foreign Entities through National Defense (DEFEND) Act. This bill has not yet been considered by congressional committee.
Based on past efforts and the objectives set forth in the Biden-Harris platform, the Biden administration is likely to promote innovation and undertake strengthening of enforcement of IP rights through diplomatic and legal channels.