Chartering Ingenuity Co. would be good for Hawaii and U.S. competitiveness
ON MAY 3, Hawaii's Legislature passed HB 1670
-- the Ingenuity Company charter -- and then sent it to Gov. Linda Lingle for her signature. This legislation represents the type of innovative public policy that we need to put into practice in order for the United States to remain competitive in the global economy.
HB 1670 charters the Ingenuity Company to "enforce the intellectual property rights of inventors to encourage and reward innovation, as well as to forge an anchor for good jobs in a manner that strengthens labor rights and enhances environmental protection nationally and internationally."
Although it will be headquartered in Hawaii, the Ingenuity Company will operate nationally as a public purpose venture fund specifically structured to "acquire, invest in, license, use, and sell intellectual property" for the overall benefit of inventors, working families and public education. Sixty percent of the company's profits will be allocated to fund the teaching of innovation in public schools. The remaining 40 percent of its profits will be used in partnership with participating unions to fund work force development as well as to improve workplace health and safety.
BY CHARTERING the Ingenuity Company, the state of Hawaii will be addressing the concerns of American workers in high-tech industries across our nation. More importantly, you will be providing a creative basis of institutional support for future generations of America's scientists, engineers, researchers, creative professionals and knowledge workers as well as supporting investment in intellectual property that nurtures economic growth in Hawaii and the United States.
As the national president of a labor union that represents more than 80,000 knowledge workers, I place a high value on policies that foster the science and technology leadership of the United States, the contribution that our nation's workers make to our local and national economies, and initiatives that improve the lives of working families in America.
THE MEMBERS of my union, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO, work in the private, federal and public sectors across industries such as aerospace, health care, civil engineering, public administration, research and energy. IFPTE's membership includes naval architects, health physicists and technicians at Pearl Harbor as well as the engineers at the Boeing Co. who design the planes that make Hawaii's modern visitor industry possible. IFPTE also represents 1,100 knowledge workers at the NASA Ames Research Center, which signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the state of Hawaii to jointly "explore opportunities for future collaborations in support of the vision for space exploration."
Throughout our membership are more than 1,000 inventors and thousands of professionals engaged in design, research and development. These American workers produce and add to intellectual property. But whether they are astrophysicists, building inspectors, research scientists, or medical assistants, all of our members interface with technology in their jobs on a daily basis. The tools, skills, and the work processes these knowledge workers use are intrinsically tied to the contributions and imaginations of individual inventors.
Our members' jobs -- like many American workers' jobs -- are subject to offshore outsourcing. They increasingly find themselves in a global environment that has seen core segments of America's high-tech industrial base shipped overseas. Alarmingly, technologies and intellectual property that originate in the United States with help from federal research dollars and support from state and local governments move offshore with the work. Further, nations competing with the United States have recognized the value of investing in technology and education while our nation's investment in these areas stagnates.
RECENTLY, some of our nation's top independent inventors wrote to Gov. Lingle asking her to sign HB 1670 into law. As the inventors of the MRI, LCDs, the pacemaker and other significant innovations, their views should be given serious consideration by policy makers who are looking to build an innovative economy. These prominent American inventors rightly make the point that "it takes political courage to advocate for a policy framework that is supportive of the independent innovator whose inventions and creations may be threatening to large entities that are wedded to technologies of the past."
So I must say that I was quite disappointed to learn that the governor chose to add the Ingenuity Company charter bill to her list of potential vetoes. However, I am hopeful that either she will reconsider and sign the bill into law or that on July 10 Hawaii's legislators will rise to the challenge and champion American ingenuity by overriding the governor's veto.
Gregory J. Junemann is the national president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO.