Shapiro Delivers Strong Political Message at CES

CEA head preaches reform of antiquated laws

Consumer Electronics Association head Gary Shapiro opened CES 2014 with a politically charged speech, issuing surprisingly blunt challenges to everyone from Congress to the government of China: "Believe in innovation: that should be our national strategy," Shapiro declared. "Every new law should be measured by whether it hurts or helps innovation."

Innovation, Shapiro said, is "too important to be choked by laws written long ago," including patent law, which the CEA has fought to change in order to frustrate patent trolls (lawyers who file broad patents and sue inventors for violating them, or in Shapiro's words, "Lawyers who do not produce any product or service but simply sue those that do").

"Innovation also means dismantling laws that no longer make sense," Shapiro told the audience of tech pros, journalists and investors. The CEA recently convinced the FAA to allow the use of portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing on commercial flights. "For all those who enjoyed your tablet or e-reader on the way to Las Vegas," said Shapiro, "you're welcome."

The exec also announced that innovation meant "attacking obstacles to job creation," calling out the nation of China for the recent break in negotiations over an international trade agreement. "We've been fighting to expand the Information Technology Agreement, which removes tariffs on all IT products," Shapiro said. "We were baffled why China blew up recent negotiations with an extremely protectionist position."