President Reagan's Working Group on Intellectual Property



President Reagan's Working Group on Intellectual Property

Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade

The Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade was established on February 26, 1981 by the Reagan Administration.

Gerald J. Mossinghoff served as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks. He stated, "President Reagan supported a strong patent system...Secretary of Commerce, Malcolm Baldrige, was the head of the Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade, and he gave him complete discretion in formulation of patent policy for the Department of Commerce. He re- called, "When I saw that Mac Baldrige was the head of the [Administration's Special Committee on] Commerce and Trade, I told him that there really ought to be...a senior-level committee on intellectual property, and I should chair it. Secretary Baldrige agreed and set up the Working Group on Intellectual Property of the Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade..." Wikipedia

ABA Addresseses

(Click Here) Gerald J. Mossinghoff's correspondence
and four ABA addresses (PDF)

Working Group on Intellectual Property

The working group advised President Reagan concerning many matters, most notably, the establishment of a Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which strengthened and brought certainty to patent law in the United States. The group initiated a far-reaching automation program at the USPTO to computerize the office's database. The WGIP took public comment and studied matters such as:

  • Trademark counterfeiting
  • Increasing the competitiveness of United States in- dustries
  • Imports of articles bearing genuine trademarks without the consent of the trademark owner (so- called "parallel imports")



The Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade's Work- ing Group on Intellectual Property (WGIP), folded in the mid-1990s into the President's Economic Policy Council.

The location of the records of the Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade is unknown. Some records are located in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.


  • 21 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media and Ent. L.J. 671, 692 (Spring2011)
  • 39 Emory L.J. 347, 395 (1990)
  • 438 PLI/Pat 31, 119 (1996 )
  • "Cabinet Council On Commerce And Trade".

External links 1981/22681d.htm


President Reagan's Working Group on Intellectual Property.


Further Guidance for Researchers

After doing research on this topic to edit the Wikipedia entry, I made further attempts to collect primary content.

I first searched the Reagan Library web. There is an archives link. This leads to various ways to access categories of data. Because at the end of the process, there was very little on the IP Working Group, I will not describe the documents or process in detail. The site is complex. I performed and advanced Google search of the entire archive and reviewed each search result.

The WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF RECORDS MANAGEMENT (WHORM) SUBJECT FILE, 1981-1989 - offers numerous individual case files available for research from closed subject categories in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. For access to these case files, you should refer to the topic finding aids. There is a file covering the Cabinet but upon examination the scope note shows no connection to the IP Working Group.

Upon contacting the Reagan Library I was informed that the Council was reduced to two Groups in Reagan's second term and IP was not one of them. So research should be restricted to his first term. Materials on the IP Working Group would be in the research area. Access to the research area requires an archivist to be at the library, and the archivists are not at the library on the weekends.

A search of Reagan speeches yielded little on this topic. The Reagan Library search engine yielded few hits on intellectual property. More searches would likely yield more insight into Reagan and IP.

President Reagan's Working Group on Intellectual Property

From a Message to the Congress on "A Quest for Excellence" - January 27, 1987

Businesses must work more efficiently, setting high standards of quality, streamlining operations, discarding outmoded systems and management styles, adapting to change, and building on their tradition as entrepreneurs who saw a better way, had a better idea, worked a little harder. Workers must be enabled to reach their potential by taking advantage of new technologies and investing in education, training, selfimprovement, and a pride in their work. Families, in concert with State and local governments, have the greatest responsibility of all -- creating an educational environment that can make our children productive citizens, able to achieve the best both spiritually and materially. We must strive for excellence in education. To fulfill the Federal Government's responsibilities, I am launching a…program aimed at…[b]etter protecting intellectual property.

The speech elaborates : Better Protecting Intellectual Property

Critically related to improving development of science and technology is ensuring protection, both domestically and internationally, of the property rights of inventors of new products and services and creators of new ideas and works of art.

We will seek statutory changes to: encourage patent owners to engage in newer and more novel ways to license their patents by limiting the "patent misuse doctrine'' raise protection for products resulting from patented processes to the same level as that accorded such products by our major trading partners; and amend the Clayton Antitrust Act to provide a more flexible standard of review for intellectual property licensing arrangements. Furthermore, we will restore the bargaining power of parties contracting to license technology by codifying and clarifying the Supreme Court holding in Lear v. Adkins; eliminating the current injury requirement from Section 337 ITC proceedings to exclude imports; and restoring the term of patents covering agricultural chemical products and animal drugs up to a maximum of 5 years to account for the period lost due to mandatory Federal premarketing regulatory review and testing. My administration will propose statutory changes to: reduce the cost of defending patent rights by: (1) mandating an award of attorneys' fees in frivolous suits on cases of willful infringement; and (2) requiring challenges to patent validity to first go through an administrative proceeding before going to court.

We will also seek a "technological" solution to the potential problem of unauthorized copying of copyrighted material on digital audio tape recorders.

We will also be proposing the necessary statutory changes to our copyright law to permit the United States to join the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literacy and Artistic Works. Seventy-six countries have signed this treaty; by joining, our country will gain copyright relations with approximately 20 countries with which we currently have none, or relations are unclear.

I am directing all Federal agencies to take into account the treatment of U.S. intellectual property when they are negotiating international agreements or providing bilateral economic assistance. I will issue an Executive order to better protect business confidentiality under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by giving businesses the opportunity to object to the release of commercial information submitted to the government.

My Administration will also propose statutory changes to FOIA expanding the definition of the "trade secrets" and "confidential commercial information" exemption to permit the government to withhold information that would cause harm to the Federal Government or commercial sector if released. In addition, the Patent and Trademark Office will be making its technology file of U.S. patents and English language abstracts of Japanese and European patents available as a research tool to business and universities through private contractors or regional search centers.


These speeches can also be found in the Federal Register and other databases. I leave it to scholars to further analyze the source documents to make conclusions.

My final research task was to contact Gerald Mossinghoff. Research rule one is to use a human. Since he was Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patent and Trademarks; Chairman, Working Group on Intellectual Property, Cabinet Council on Commerce and Trade, what better resource could be found to further the research or end the process. His correspondence confirmed that there were no reports issued by the Group. He reported on IP matters during the Reagan administration annually to the ABA Section on IP. These were published in the Journal of the Patent Office.

I hope anyone interested in this topic find this site useful.

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