U.S. ingenuity deserves Legislature's support
NEARLY SEVEN years ago I wrote an op-ed that was published in Pacific Business News praising then-Gov. Ben Cayetano for taking a stand on behalf of independent inventors like me and for having the foresight to defend our invaluable U.S. patent system.
During the summer of 1999, Cayetano had taken the almost unprecedented step of writing to all 49 of his fellow governors urging them to join him in opposing national legislation that would have seriously weakened "the property rights of independent American inventors by significantly undermining the patent protection so important to encouraging innovation."
I concluded my op-ed by expressing "my gratitude to Gov. Cayetano for recognizing the importance of independent inventors to the economy and for having the foresight and courage to stand up on our behalf." I wrote this despite the fact that my support for Republican politicians is a matter of public record.
Today I write because Hawaii's Legislature is poised to pass landmark legislation that will charter a new corporate vehicle -- the Ingenuity Corporation -- which will enable inventors from around our great nation to protect their intellectual property rights and will give labor unions greater ability to protect their members' jobs.
As the inventor of magnetic resonance imaging and as the founder of the company that first commercialized the MRI, I can state unequivocally that I am very concerned about the loss of U.S. technological competitiveness, patent rights and good jobs. By establishing a special purpose corporation to oversee the use of intellectual property (IP), the state of Hawaii will be addressing these concerns in a manner that benefits inventors, creates and retains good jobs nationally and supports innovative public education in Hawaii.
As I mentioned in my 1999 op-ed, the U.S. patent system -- crafted in part by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson -- is designed so that the people who invent new technologies, regardless of their access to capital, own them, and therefore have the opportunity to profit from them. The U.S. patent system is absolutely vital to America's economic strength; indeed, it helped to create it.
Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, also was the only U.S. president to hold a patent. Lincoln declared that patent rights "secured to the inventor, for a limited time, the exclusive use of his invention; and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things." Lincoln also stated that, "Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are worthy of protection as any other rights."
Lincoln recognized that protecting the rights of inventors and the livelihoods of working people is just as critical to the strength of our nation as protecting the rights of capital. The Ingenuity Corporation will be an effective vehicle for balancing all of these interests for the purpose of promoting innovation and securing the common good.
I urge the Hawaii Legislature to pass the Ingenuity Corporation charter bill, and I respectfully ask that Gov. Linda Lingle sign it into law without delay. Please remember that American ingenuity helped to make this country great. This is not a time for partisanship. It is a time to stand together for the good of America.
Raymond Damadian, M.D., invented the MRI. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. He lives in Melville, New York.