Fordham IPLJ: Intellectual Property in the Age of Donald Trump
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It is no secret that we entered into uncharted territory the moment Donald Trump, media mogul and business owner extraordinaire, became the President-elect of the United States of America. It is without a doubt that Trump achieving this feat is a classic American success story. He defied every poll in existence and broke the proverbial glass ceiling of inexperienced people being able to hold a role in public office; especially one as prominent as the President of the United States of America. At every turn, his politically incorrect and often times irreverent way of speaking offended millions of people and yet never once destroyed his chances of holding the highest seat in the land. Say what you will about him, it definitely cannot be denied that his victory has thrust us into a strange and uncertain world. Experts in every conceivable field and pundits alike began theorizing what ramifications this could have for their sectors, least of which is the field of intellectual property.

Last month, the International Intellectual Property Alliance published a report on the contribution made by the copyrights industries to the United States economy. When this report was issued, Congressman Doug Collins, House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Vice Chair, said, “Creativity undergirds the 21st century economy, and strong intellectual property rights ensure that our economy benefits from the innovation and pluck of American workers who bring many of our dreams to life…..Our nation’s founders, in their wisdom, placed intellectual property rights under the umbrella of our protected Constitutional rights. From the beginning, Congress has had the responsibility of upholding and strengthening those rights—which fuel American ingenuity….”1

It is clear that copyrights, for example, are protected by the constitution which is supplemented by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These two statutes have helped intellectual property rights holders for years to protect their rights when they could. However, with the boom of the internet and the rise of file sharing websites, peer to peer networks, and even social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Instagram etc., it has become increasingly difficult for rights holders to prevent infringement. The same can be said for patents rights holders as well who in recent times have seen a steady shift away from adequate rights protection which will inevitably result in a halt in invention if innovators have no faith in the system that is meant to protect their rights.

Consequently, it is up in the air at this point where the future of intellectual property rights is headed. The only thing that has given any sort of comfort was when the President-elect offered up these words in an August 8th speech in 2016 in connection with how he will treat intellectual property while outlining his economic plan as President:

“At the center of my plan is trade enforcement with China. This alone could return millions of jobs into our country. They break the rules in every way imaginable. China engages in illegal export subsidies, prohibited currency manipulation, and rampant theft of intellectual property. They also have no real environmental or labor protections, further undercutting American workers. Just enforcing intellectual property rules alone could save millions of American jobs. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, improved protection of America’s intellectual property in China would produce more than 2 million more jobs right here in the United States.”2

Despite the above statement, there are still many more unanswered questions that will hopefully be laid to rest within the next coming months. For now, all we can do is wait.

Jason Okanlawon

Jason Okanlawon is an LL.M candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal.