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Sam Asano's Let's Invent: Protecting intellectual property

March 19. 2017 11:18PM

The United States has always been a generous country to the rest of the world. In my observation since I landed here, it has never ceased to amaze me how generous this nation is.

Starting with World War II, the U.S. pretty much pacified Western Europe and the Far East, beating Germany and Japan.

Then it created the now famous and historically significant Marshall Plan (its official name was European Recovery Program — ERP) to rebuild war-torn Western Europe. The Plan was successful, and Western Europe regained and surpassed the prewar industrial production level in four short years. There were and still are some economists who argues that Western Europe would have recovered without the Marshall Plan. I would say hindsight is always 20/20.

In short, the Marshall Plan rescued Western Europe’s industrial production and associated national revenue. The Plan removed many trade barriers between nations, improving the efficiency of international trade and building the foundation of today’s European Common Market.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, America stayed on top of the world in industry, military and peace-making efforts. American policy is centered around peace and prosperity through free trade worldwide. This general principle, backed by the world’s top military strength, maintained peace and order in the world. But this quintessential American free trade policy started a slow leak on the tire starting around the 1970s when underdeveloped nations commenced manufacturing products fervently and with price levels far below that of U.S. domestic firms. Buying cheaper goods offshore and losing employment on-shore became a problem.

An ex-executive of a shoe manufacturing firm in Maine, where many similar firms coexisted prosperously for some 100 years, told me that the demise of Maine’s shoe industry was almost instant, and in some ways it reminded him of a large castle burning down. He says that “many thousands lost their jobs literally overnight.”

President Trump’s America First policy of “Make America Great Again” should sound like music to the ears, but I see just too many obstacles to see a positive result right away.

Here are some suggested policy changes that could accelerate Trump’s policy.

• Reform our educational system from grammar schools to universities to drastically increase technological educations so students become familiar with the manufacturing culture.

• Instead of spending billions to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, we should suspend NAFTA, establish significant tariffs for imported goods, and simultaneously establish high fees for fund transfers from immigrants within America sending money to where they are from. Immigrants crossing the border illegally displace domestic workers, and ship the earned income outside the country. This is a double whammy for America.

• Form a strong, public intellectual property (IP) management organization to police any IP violations by foreign sources and to prosecute violators in court. Other aspects of this organization’s duties would be to protect and assist small businesses whose financial resources are limited and cannot afford IP counsel.

Historically our nation has been lax on policing our large portfolio of intellectual property. Simultaneously, China has been a violator of American intellectual property. Large manufacturers in America can afford to engage lawyers and fight through the court process. My proposal is to change laws to speed up the process to stop the incoming tide of products that violate American IPs.

America has been taken advantage of by the world for a long time. Trade barriers exist against American products. Trade friction between America and Japan regarding beef, rice and other agricultural products is notorious and even comical, yet the American government doesn’t seem to take a hard attitude to make the deal on level ground.

Since the 1970s America has taken a mild-mannered, benevolent and gentlemanly attitude toward the world. We have lost most of our manufacturing and racked up the staggering national debt. It is about time we turn more aggressive and defend our economy. In that sense, I agree with Trump’s economic nationalism. But let’s do it right. Uprighting American manufacturing culture could take many years. Be patient, but don’t quit.

Shintaro “Sam” Asano of New Castle was named by MIT as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century.

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