What a difference a year makes.
In case you missed it, US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator Victoria Espinel has released the first annual report outlining the Obama administration’s progress in implementing its strategy on intellectual property. It is just one report, but it speaks volumes.
Remember that it was little more than a year ago that Espinel became the first person confirmed by the US Senate to hold her post. Six months after that, she and Vice President Joe Biden unveiled the country’s first — in our view, historic — Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement.
That blueprint marked a new phase for intellectual property protection in the United States. It marshaled the collective knowledge and expertise of all federal agencies charged with enforcing IP rights and committed them to common goals so that government can more efficiently and effectively combat domestic and international infringement of copyrighted products. Especially noteworthy for the software industry was a federal commitment to lead by example on legal software use. The strategy called for a review of administration policies and practices to ensure that government is doing everything possible to promote legal software use — not just by federal agencies, but also by their contractors.
Now, barely six more months on, Espinel is able to report significant progress. She and her team have been working with agencies to review policies covering software use by government contractors and ensure that “any software they use in performance of a contract with a federal agency is properly acquired and used.” Espinel expects that review to be completed soon.
Along the way, she notes in her annual report, “we decided it would be valuable to remind agency Information Technology (IT) and procurement officials of the Administration’s policy of making IT procurement decisions in a technology neutral way.” That reminder came in early January in the form of a directive from the Office of Management and Budget. As we noted here on BSA TechPost, it demonstrated tremendous leadership, not just in the United States but globally, at a time when a number of governments in Europe and Asia have been inching toward preferences for open-source technologies or for technologies that are free of intellectual property rights.
Beyond the provisions of direct interest to the software industry, the really striking thing about the first annual report on the progress of IP enforcement is the degree to which it represents an overall commitment on the part of the Obama administration to drive innovation policy. Reading the new report alongside the president’s recently released Strategy for American Innovation, it is abundantly clear that the White House places IP protection at the core of its innovation agenda — because, in Lincoln’s words, effective intellectual property rights spur technological progress and economic growth by adding “the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.”
Espinel and her colleagues in the White House have brought energy and focus to their task, and we should all be grateful. The software industry certainly is.