I recently had the pleasure and honor to participate in the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) CES On The Hill in Washington D.C. The CEA’s incredibly capable staff was host to a group of technology leaders from around the country. Over the course of several days the CEA arranged for us to speak directly to lawmakers about two issues of great importance to our industry: skilled immigration reform and patent litigation reform.

I spent a full-day “up on the Hill” visiting congressional offices along with other members of the California delegation. We met with the legislative affairs staff of CA-11 Rep. Mark DeSauliner; CA-12 district Rep. Nancy Pelosi; CA-32 district Rep. Grace Napolitano and with CA-27 Rep. Judy Chu.

These meetings were all business: factual and to the point.  The staff members were sharp, knowledgeable and they listened carefully to our concerns and ideas. Here’s a quick summary of the two big issues we discussed.

In a knowledge-driven, global economy we need to do everything we can to attract the best and brightest to come and stay in the United States. Silicon Valley has the highest percentage of foreign born residents in the country (36.4%) and the economic dynamism of the Valley speaks for itself.

We asked for Member’s support on the Skills Visa Act (H.R. 2131) and the Start-up Act (H.R. 962) both of which seek to reform the immigration system and welcome more foreign-born entrepreneurs, workers and U.S.-educated immigrants to help build American businesses and create domestic jobs. We urged the Members we met to move swiftly and pass legislation that will update America’s outdated immigration policies, specifically:

  • Foreign-born, U.S.-educated immigrants should be allowed to remain in America upon graduation with a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) graduate degree.
  • Visas should be granted to foreign-born entrepreneurs who want to start businesses in the U.S., provided they raise sufficient capital and hire American workers.
  • Increase the total number of H-1B visas available for high-skilled foreign workers to address the current shortage of high-skilled workers.

We asked Member’s to support the Innovation Act of 2015 (H.R. 9) which would reform patent litigation abuse. Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), better known as patent trolls, stifle innovation by abusing the legal system with frivolous lawsuits. We urged Members to protect American innovators from patent tolls:

  • Abuse of the patent system costs the U.S. economy $80 billion a year
  • The vast majority (80%) of victims are start-ups and small businesses
  • The cost for a company to defend against a frivolous patent lawsuit can easily rise above $1 million, and most companies pay-up and settle rather than fight back

CES On The Hill 2015 was a great opportunity to participate in the process of petitioning our government.

It was challenging, exciting and a lot of fun.