- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What’s more important: America’s support for American innovation or short-term price breaks in chips for cell phone manufacturers? That is the decision facing the Bush administration this month.

On June 7, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) announced a decision to enforce its finding that certain cell phone chips manufactured and imported into the United States by the Qualcomm Corp. are illegal copies of new chips that allow people to view videos in real time and simultaneously access data and voice networks. On May 29, a federal jury found Qualcomm guilty of willfully infringing on the patent of Broadcom, the chip’s inventor, and then making cell phones based on that new technology.

This verdict no doubt shaped the decision of the ITC to bar the importation of certain handsets that contain patent-infringing chips. This ITC order is now under review by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The USTR has 60 days from June 7 to overturn the ITC’s ruling (and ignore the court’s decision) based on public-policy reasons.

Not surprisingly, cell phone manufacturers using the Qualcomm chip are lobbying both the USTR and the White House for such an outcome. The Bush administration should bear in mind that overruling the ITC will contradict its own corrective actions against Thailand and Brazil in response to the decision of those nations to let its state-owned drug companies override the patent rights of American pharmaceutical and biotech firms. Indeed, those on the left are actively pushing for the White House to overturn the ITC decision precisely because it wants to establish a precedent for the United States to import patent-infringing products for the sake of lower prices and public health. That would justify patent breaking everywhere.

Overruling a jury verdict and the ITC in the area of patent protection would give the enemies of democratic capitalism a weapon for undermining what is America’s source of strength and security: its inventiveness and enthusiasm for protecting and investing in new ideas.

If USTR and the White House retreat from a longstanding policy of protecting American innovation — or even worse, forge a preferential path favoring patent-infringing products — the administration will weaken our country’s ability to compete internationally and hand the anti-globalization left a victory it could not obtain on its own. Both would irrevocably harm our economy and national security.