The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the US Department of Commerce, has issued a green paper on “Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things” and a request for public comment on the paper and the government’s role with the Internet of Things (IoT). The NTIA seeks broad input from all interested stakeholders, including private industry, researchers, academia, and civil society on the issues and proposed approach, current initiatives, and next steps as set forth in the paper. Public comment is sought as to the government’s role in cybersecurity, privacy, intellectual property, and other facets. The comment period is 45-days from the date of publication in the Federal Register for the request for public comments.
The request for public comment builds upon the April 2016 Request for Comment on “The Benefits, Challenges, and Potential Roles for the Government in Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things” (and comments) and the September 2016 workshop. In the green paper, observations include the following: (1) IoT presents unique opportunities and challenges, (2) the number of connected devices in the United States is projected to grow to 4.1 billion and 26 billion globally, (3) IoT needs a flexible, risk-based approach, (4) IoT needs to be designed with security in mind, and (5) intellectual property protections, such as trade secrets, patents, trademarks, and copyrights can help serve to foster IoT innovation and growth.
With regard to intellectual property rights to protect IoT, patents provide patentees with the right to exclude others from making, selling, and using the claimed invention. Trademarks can provide indicators of the quality of goods and the source of the goods (in addition to branding and goodwill). Trademark laws exist at both the state and Federal levels. For example, computer programs are copyrightable and thus may be protected under Federal copyright law (the actual code being considered “literary works”). Trade secrets, which are protected by civil and criminal laws at the state and federal levels, comprise of information which is confidential, commercially valuable information that provides a company with a competitive advantage. (Trade secrets are protected from being “stolen” under the Economic Espionage Act of 1986.)