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What Will Trump Mean for Technology, Intellectual Property Law?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on November 10, 2016 2:55 PM

Donald Trump was elected president on Tuesday and many are just now starting to look closely at what a Trump administration might be like, for the Supreme Court, for businesses, and for intellectual property law and technological innovation.

Here's what we know, what we don't, and what might be in store.

Trump's Not Saying Much on Intellectual Property Law

Want to know where Trump stands on major intellectual property law issues? You might as well ask a Ouija board. That's because Trump has no published policies on copyrights or patents, as Ars Technica recently pointed out. That doesn't mean that Trump is unfamiliar with IP issues, though. As Dennis Crouch writes for Patently 0:

Trump has substantial personal experience protecting and enforcing his own trademarks, including attempts to protect more controversial marks such as 'you're fired.' However his businesses have few if any patent rights and have relied on the perception of luxury rather than innovation for their successes. An element of Trumps campaign was the recognition that he personally understands how to find an exploit loopholes in government regulation and that his experience make him uniquely qualified to fix the holes. Question for the patent system is whether president Trump will see patent trolls, pharmaceutical pricing, and the Eastern District of Texas as exploitations needing to be fixed.

Ars Technica predicts that Trump's Hollywood connections would give him a "a more maximalist view of copyright," (see "you're fired," above) and notes that the future vice president, Mike Pence, "was close to a group of House Republicans who mostly opposed patent reform."

Trump on the Net, Tech, and Cybersecurity

On other topics, Trump's positions have been underdeveloped, vague, or primarily Twitter-based.

How will the FCC operate under a Trump administration, for example? It's hard to tell. In 2014, Trump tweeted that the FCC's Net Neutrality rules were an "attack on the internet" intended to "target conservative media." In other tweets, he called on a critical journalist to be fined by the FCC after the journalist said Carly Fiorina "cut his balls off" during a debate. But tweets are hardly reasoned policy positions, so take them as you will.

Trump's approach to cybersecurity doesn't leave many feeling confident, either. In remarks to the press, Trump has (perhaps half-heartedly?) called on Russia to hack its way in to Hillary Clinton's missing emails, saying "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." He seemed genuinely unconcerned with his political opponents were indeed hacked, possibly by foreign actors. Trump's stated cybersecurity plan currently just calls for a review of "all US cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure."

Trump's victory is being taken roughly by many in the technology industry, where most leaders had repudiated Trump's candidacy, save for the conservative tech libertarian Peter Thiel. Trump has made a few specific claims about tech companies, saying he will investigate Amazon for antitrust violations and require Apple to manufacture more products in the United States. More generally, his anti-immigration positions could limit access to talented foreign tech workers.

We'll soon see if the tech industry changes their tone and learns to love the Don, now that Trump has won. Right now, that doesn't seem likely. Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, of Sherpa Capital, greeted Trump's election by saying "the horror, the horror." He then pledged to help California secede from the union.

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