Published in Landslide® magazine, Volume 13, Number 1, a publication of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law (ABA-IPL), ©2020 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.
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Senator Thom Tillis
A conversation with Kira M. Alvarez
Senator Thom Tillis is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Com-
mittee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. In addition to the
Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Tillis serves on the Senate
Armed Services Committee, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and
the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.
Before going into public service, Senator Tillis had a 22-year
career in technology management consulting at Pricewater-
houseCoopers and IBM. This experience provided Senator Tillis
with a deep understanding of policy making and analyzing com-
plex issues and is the basis for his approach to legislating.
Senator Tillis’s rst involvement in public service was
serving as the president of the parent-teacher association at
his daughter’s high school. He then served as a member of
the Town of Cornelius Board of Commissioners. In 2006, he
was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives.
In 2011, Senator Tillis was selected by his peers to serve as
Speaker of the House. He served in this position until 2014,
when he was elected to the United States Senate.
As a senator, he is focused on nding pragmatic solutions
and delivering results for North Carolinians. He brings the
same approach to the complex intellectual property issues
considered by the Subcommittee.
Kira M. Alvarez is the former legislative consultant for the
ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law. She previously
served as chief negotiator and deputy assistant USTR for IP
enforcement during the Obama Administration.
KA: What do you think is the greatest invention out there?
TT: That list is a long one—which speaks to the value of
American innovation—and it is hard to name a “greatest.”
However, I think the computer, more than anything else, has
been possibly the greatest invention of all time when you
think about how many more inventions it has led to.
KA: Why did you decide to restart the Subcommittee on Intel-
lectual Property at the start of this Congress? What are your
current goals, and how do you plan to accomplish them?
TT: Before I went into public service, I worked for a num-
ber of years in technology and management consulting, where
I saw rsthand how intellectual property propelled innovation
and economic growth. For example, look at North Carolina’s
economy. We are home to some of the most innovative com-
panies and research universities in the country. Without strong
intellectual property protections, many of these companies and
university research, and all of the high-income jobs they create
in North Carolina, would not exist.
My goal as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Intellectual
Property is to promote policies that will ensure America’s
innovation and creative economies continue to be the best in
the world. I think the key to this is approaching each policy
question with an open mind. There is not one right answer
to every problem; it is a process and, as you know all too
well, I love to take on the difcult issues. The process starts
with basic fact-nding, and I am appreciative of groups
like the ABA Intellectual Property Law Section—and your
members—who are always willing to come to the table and
provide constructive input on difcult issues.
KA: What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the
U.S. with respect to innovation, and how is the Subcommit-
tee helping to address this challenge?
TT: Intellectual property theft and infringement is the great-
est challenge to U.S. innovation. Protecting intellectual property
from theft and infringement is essential. If we don’t provide
adequate intellectual property protections, smart businesses and
individuals won’t invest the signicant time and money needed
to invent world-changing technologies, develop life-saving phar-
maceuticals, or create generational movies, music, books, and
other kinds of art that we remember for a lifetime.
KA: What policies, if any, can your committee implement
to discourage or disrupt state-sponsored theft of American