No private entity is more enmeshed with the Barack Obama administration than Google. This has been — in way too many ways for an allegedly free market economy — the Google administration.
Google has met with the White House just about once a week, every week since President Obama took the oath. Think tanks usually staff administrations — Google and this administration have been swapping often very high-level employees throughout.
And as we know, personnel is policy. So time and again this administration has (often illegally) jammed through awful, anti-capitalism policy because Google asked for it.
Sometimes the cronyism is so overt it’s darkly comical. Like when the administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unilaterally imposed Google’s preferred (and really idiotic) Network Neutrality.
The Commission’s two Republicans weren’t given an advance draft of the order — but Google was. And then the Commission’s Obama-appointee chairman altered the order at Google’s request.
And now we have Google’s foray into driverless cars. Cars that can drive themselves — and thus must detect all manner of things stationary and mobile around them. There are many components incorporated in making that a possibility. And each sliver of every component requires a patent.
Now, a brief aside — to delve a little bit into the United States patent process. I myself have recently applied for a patent. My idea works for multiple products, but I have to apply for a separate patent for each. (Then I have to trademark the name, and … it ain’t easy or cheap to have an idea.)
I tell this story as a parallel to what Google is doing. Trying to get a driverless car to market takes a LOT of patents. One of which is what Google calls a “Bus Detection for an Autonomous Vehicle.”
More Obama administration-delivered good news for Google: its U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just approved said patent. Bad news for Google? The Obama administration approved said patent “not a week after its self-driving car failed to detect a bus and ultimately collided with it”:
“According to the patent, the car’s self-driving software should recognize a large vehicle, check it against known school bus sizes and look for other visual cues such as yellow paint or the word “School” painted on it. Upon confirmation, the car will take special care around the bus.”
Alanis Morissette would call that ironic – don’t you think?
Now to be fair, “Google’s car didn’t hit a school bus — just a traditional one. Google’s software (and the human driver serving as backup) assumed the bus would yield for the self-driving car, but it didn’t, and so the two collided.” And Google has “tweaked its software significantly, implementing 3,500 new tests to avoid this happening again.”
But one has to wonder if anyone other than Google — under these same exact circumstances — would have received patent approval.
In an era of poorly crafted, badly aimed “patent troll” legislation — when the chief complaint is actually bad patents being approved — one absolutely has to ask.
Oh — guess who heads up the Obama Administration’s Patent and Trademark Office? A woman named Michelle Lee. Guess what her immediately preceding gig was? “Deputy General Counsel and Head of Patents and Patent Strategy for Google from 2003 to 2012.”