Patent News

Mar. 5, 2015

Intellectual Asset Management: The Inventing America event showed opposition to the Innovation Act is bi-partisan and getting STRONGer, by Richard Lloyd

This post originally appeared in Intellectual Asset Management on March 5, 2015.

With competing bills in Congress and lobbying dollars pouring into the fight, it’s fair to say that the patent reform debate is heating up. Earlier this week a coalition of groups including the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Innovation Alliance, the Medical Device Manufacturers Association and the National Venture Capital Association held the Inventing America conference, to help push their agenda of a cautious, targeted approach to patent reform. Among the speakers was Senator Coons, one of the authors of the new STRONG Act, and an increasingly prominent player in the reform debate.

Here are some highlights from the event:

STRONG throws a spanner in the works – Not surprisingly much of the chatter among delegates between sessions was about the STRONG Act, patent legislation which was recently introduced in the Senate, and the chances of the Innovation Act in the House of Representatives. Some members of the small inventor community who have been particularly active lobbying on the Hill even claimed that Congressman Goodlatte’s bill might be voted down in the House of Representatives. Given that it was approved by a majority of 325 – 91 during the last Congress in 2013, expecting a reverse this time around might be stretching things. As one keen Hill observer pointed out, it’s very difficult to change a prevailing dynamic in the House.

What is clear is that there’s a massive education process happening on the Hill as those who are critical of the Innovation Act point out the possible unintended consequences of some of its provisions. The longer the legislative process lasts then the more opportunity there is for that kind of lobbying to have an effect.

The other interesting dynamic that has been added to the mix is what impact the STRONG Act, introduced earlier this week by Senators Coons, Durbin and Hirono, will have on Democrats in the Senate. As one delegate at the event pointed out, if Democrats do flock to the proposed bill then there is little chance of anything that borrows heavily from the Innovation Act passing the Senate.

That level of support for the new bill is not assured – Senators Leahy and Schumer have so far been the leading Senate Democrats on patent reform and they will still carry some sway. But the STRONG Act doesn’t contain a fee-shifting provision, which remains a sensitive topic for Democrats and, as DC insiders like to point out, sometimes corralling a minority is much easier than a majority.