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A Bipartisan, Consensus Approach to Innovation Policy

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 29/03/2016 Victoria Espinel

In encouraging news given today's climate, Congress is making progress on legislation that will promote innovation. Even more encouraging? The legislation and process involved in this progress are both bipartisan and bicameral.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act, introduced in the Senate by Senators Hatch and Coons, and in the House by Representatives Collins, Nadler, and Jeffries, shows tremendous promise when it comes to bolstering software innovation - so important to our daily lives, and to the health of our national economy as a whole.

The reality is that our economy is increasingly reliant on cloud computing. Businesses of all sizes, in all industries, use cloud services to improve efficiency. Software runs the cloud, and every day software companies are investing in research and development to improve its operations - helping countless individuals and businesses worldwide.

The innovations and improvements that spring from that R&D often are the most valuable property a company owns - they may constitute the know-how that differentiates, for example, a company in the US from a competitor overseas. And that know-how is often protected as trade secrets.

Trade secrets are often thought of as involving a manufacturing process or a sales list, but they can also be the algorithm or computer code that ensures data in the cloud is routed to a customer in the most efficient, reliable, and secure method possible. If a company can rely on a harmonized, reliable trade secret system to protect its prized know-how, that company is more likely to collaborate in research and development - which then improves the innovation ecosystem as a whole. In short, progress is curbed and innovation stunted without effective trade secret safeguards.

Despite the importance of trade secret protection in our culture of innovation, our outdated current laws mean that a trade secret owner has no federal civil remedy if its know-how is stolen. The Defend Trade Secrets Act would provide that important, missing remedy, and help usher in the harmonized system that will benefit not only software innovation but our entire American economy.

Senate and House Judiciary Committee leaders have encouraged a collaborative, consensus-oriented approach toward this legislation. As a result, the Defend Trade Secrets Act has been cosponsored by more than 60 Senators and 120 Members of the House. The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved related legislation last Congress, and the Senate Judiciary Committee recently did the same.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the Defend Trade Secrets Act in early April. Action by lawmakers to modernize this important area is good news for us all, and for the groundbreaking innovation of our future.

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