Hot Property - by Pat Choate
Review by Ronald J. Riley
President, Professional Inventors Alliance
Once I started Hot Property I couldn't put the book down. Reading all day on and off to the exclusion of other things which needed to be done. The story is stunning and compelling. America, in fact all of the West is in deep trouble if we don't start addressing these issues very aggressively. Failure to act will send us down the same path as Rome.
I could not help but find it ironic that the very companies who are well known for their predatory practices against independent inventors are being preyed on globally themselves. My first reaction was that they deserve this. But upon reflection I changed my mind.
In 1990 I left a subsidiary of Sun Oil to pursue my inventions. By 1993 I had achieved commercial success but was only able to collect royalties on less than ten percent of the products incorporating my invention. I had to fight an endless stream of intellectual property thieves. The first was Yaskawa, then a division of Thyssen, followed by Mitsubishi, General Motors, Rockwell's Allen Bradley, and a host of others.
But I was making a living, and prospering to the point that I was able to devote much of my time to community service for the past decade. As a result of my experiences I founded the Professional Inventors Alliance in 1993 and in early 1995 brought many of those inventors into the patent reform fight which is described in chapter nine of Hot Property..
Over the last five years the core business of my company, Riley & Associates, Inc. which markets the monorail control products I invented dropped rapidly. It is only my other business activities which have allowed me to continue.
About five years ago I exported product to both India and China. I had visions of a growing business. In each case only a small quantity of product was shipped, and I never received another order from either country.
Then one of my major licensees in the automation industry filed bankruptcy, costing me a quarter of my annual revenues. They reorganized and I eventually did receive payment a year later. But their long term health is questionable, and if they fail it will cost me dearly. The cause of their failure is detailed in chapter five "Japan's Way" of Hot Property. In fact America's automation industry is in a shambles.
I responded to this by shifting my consulting business to the medical industry. I have found ample business in that industry. But I can see that this may not last, for they are also suffering, losing business to none other than China. And since so much of the manufacturing is going to China much of the automation business is also moving there.
While lobbying the patent reform issue I had numerous meetings with the United States Trade Representative (USTR). These meetings involved former Patent Commissioner Don Banner and several other notable people. The two USTR staff who were present were Joseph Papovich and Ira Shapiro (General Counsel). At one of the meetings Mr. Shapiro was explaining to me the difficulties of negotiating with the Japanese. He described the process as being like peeling an onion, that there was always another layer.
After considering this for a few moments I replied that the person peeling the onion was crying the whole time and that reply drew considerable laughter. Granted that he laughter was of the nervous variety. I also learned in the process that America's intellectual property and most economic issues were routinely traded away to get other concessions. Hot Property details how our government is squandering our economic interests and our future. The story told in Hot Property is consistent with my experiences both as a business owner and during seven years of lobbying these issues in Washington, DC.
If we are realistic we must recognize that we are all in the same boat, big and small business alike. And we must recognize that all developed countries are being similarly victimized. It is long past time that big business recognizes that independent inventors can be part of their salvation, and time that independent inventors learn to have reasonable expectations. Working together we could return America to its former glory. Failure to do so will surely lead to rapid decline of the West.
"Hot Property: The stealing of ideas in an age of globalization" is a fast paced and interesting book which shows us the history of how some developing countries are stealing us blind. It teaches us how Japan copied the way Germany stole and manipulated their way to control many industries on a global basis and how China, India, and a handful of other countries are now following in their footsteps.
Everyone who is in government, intellectual property, business, and even the general public should read this book. We cannot stop globalization and even if we could we probably should not. But we should make sure that developing countries earn their prosperity by building their own economy and not allow them to appropriate our knowledge base.
Ronald J. Riley
President, Professional Inventors Alliance