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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on Innovation, Patent Reform and the Sharing Economy

Kelsey Davis, Sr. Manager, Digital Media Marketing, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), representing New York’s 8th district in Brooklyn and Queens, is a champion of innovation. From patent reform to ridesharing, we had a chance to get his take on some of the most pressing tech policy issues of today.

Part of your district, Brooklyn, is home to some of the most innovative companies in the tech industry. How do you ensure that your state supports startups and the innovation economy?

The New York City Economic Development Corporation does a good job helping to generate tech and tech business for the city. It attracts innovators who work to solve a wide range of problems from traffic congestion to local food cultivation. 

What is remarkable about these innovators is that they design, create and actually deploy their tech in the city, and they come to Brooklyn because we have a highly-skilled and diverse work force, great cultural institutions, significant transportation options, and incredible living and office spaces where companies can grow and scale up.  Our telecommunications infrastructure is excellent, allowing cloud-based startups to thrive, and corporate partners and venture capitalists are bountiful in New York City and eager to support all of the amazing innovation in Brooklyn.

Tell us a little about your work on patent reform

I co-sponsored the Patent Litigation Reform Act which would have helped curb harassing litigation tactics by patent assertion entities that drive up costs for the innovation ecosystem and stifle investment in research and development.  The Act would have, among other things, required heightened pleading standards to expose frivolous lawsuits and help defendants better prepare for trial, as well as required that the standard pleading form that was used in patent cases (Form 18) be revised to reflect the heightened pleading standards within the bill. 

Fortunately, the Judicial Conference dealt with that issue after the Audi of America case by heightening pleading standards and abrogating Rule 84 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as the notorious Form 18. I remain committed to a patent litigation system where the outcome of a case is based on the merits of the underlying claim and not the high cost of the discovery and a legal proceeding.

In the past, you have differed with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on the sharing economy. Why?

The sharing economy is a global force but we have to ensure that it does not contribute to the marginalization of people.  All who use the sharing economy must be treated fairly and equally.  I also think that companies of the sharing industry can play important roles in helping to promote diversity and inclusion in tech and train young people in computer sciences so that future workers are prepared for the tech challenges and opportunities our economy will face. 

How important is ridesharing to the future of transportation, especially in urban areas?

Ridesharing—be it by bike, scooter or car—is going to be an integral part of transportation in urban areas.  In my view the companies that run these transportation operations should seize the opportunities to partner with the communities in ways that help train local workers and educate local young people on the skills needed for jobs of the future.    

Rep. Jeffries is one of CTA’s 2018 Digital Patriot Honorees. He and Rep. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) will be recognized at CTA’s 14th Annual Digital Patriots Dinner.