Bruce Lehman was the most active patent and trademark commissioner in modern history, which isn’t as good as it sounds. Lehman anticipated a central change that came with the rise of the Internet: America’s exertion of soft power — its mastery of software in the broadest sense (computer programs, movies, music). An air mass that was stalled under prior administrations, intellectual property joined the jet stream of policy-making in the Clinton administration.

Before leaving office at the end of 1998, Lehman politicized intellectual property in unprecedented ways. He didn’t win all his battles — he couldn’t convince Congress to legislate protections for databases as Europe has. But he accomplished far more than most of his do-little predecessors. Bill and Al were on board, especially if it helped to bring in Hollywood donations. But Lehman was the one who connected the dots between intellectual property policy, exports, and jobs.

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