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August 27, 2007

Derail?

The bipartisan money-grubbing-from-IT-corporate-lobbyists legislation commonly known as the Patent Reform Act of 2007 is "hitting resistance," according to the Wall Street Journal, "because of concerns the U.S. might be exposed to greater foreign competition." It seems that some members of Congress have been reading The Patent Prospector, and more ought to.

WSJ - Monday, August 27, 2008:

Calls for changes in the patent system have been building for some time and gained traction after Democrats took control of Congress this year. In both the House and the Senate, bipartisan coalitions emerged to take up the issue. And the initiative, with the help of some savvy lobbying by business supporters, appeared on track for passage, despite the partisan-charged political environment on Capitol Hill.

Patent overhaul appeared to be on a fast track earlier this summer... The White House made clear it was also on board. While raising concerns about some details of the legislation, the Bush administration has offered general support for "the goals" of the initiative.

But plans for a quick vote got derailed last month after the AFL-CIO entered the debate, warning that innovation -- and union-backed manufacturing jobs -- might be at risk if the changes were adopted. The union has considerable clout in the Democratic Congress and expressed concerns with provisions that would expose patents to expanded challenges and might limit damages for infringement.



From the beginning, the legislation has faced opposition. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies have voiced concern. So have large research universities and many manufacturers, such as Caterpillar Inc. and Dow Chemical Co. They contend that the legislation is too far-reaching and would stifle innovation by weakening the value of patents... Opponents of the legislation argue that it would make it easier for foreign competitors to legally copy patented methods and products.

At about the same time, criticism with a strong antiglobalization bent began to emerge among rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties. In late July, Reps. Michael Michaud, a Maine Democrat, and Donald Manzullo, an Illinois Republican, circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter noting "foreign competitors" welcomed the legislation. The letter was accompanied by an overseas newspaper story noting that pharmaceutical companies in India saw the legislation as an opening to break patent rights on brand-name drugs and gain an edge in the U.S. market.

In coming to comprehension, Manzullo was shocked: "We just couldn't believe it. This is a very serious problem." But Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has long had his finger on the pulse of what's going on.

Eventually, more than 60 House members joined in an appeal to House leaders in both parties not to rush action. The request echoed of the same language used by the AFL-CIO: "It is especially important that these proposals not undermine our efforts to achieve better intellectual property protection for U.S. companies overseas, particularly in China and India."

Amid the concerns, House leaders backed off of tentative plans to run the measure through the floor before lawmakers left town for the summer.

But Rep. Howard Berman, a sponsor, can't buy a clue. "It is the weakness and abuses of the current system that are impeding American innovation." Berman predicts passage in the House in September.

Patent Hawk predicts more lining of pockets in the halls of Congress over the legislation, without enactment.

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Hat tip to WSJ article author Greg Hitt, who wrote excellent copy.

Posted by Patent Hawk at August 27, 2007 12:00 AM | The Patent System

Comments

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is back once again. He was there the first time they tried to gut the system. Thanks man!

Posted by: johng at August 27, 2007 1:02 PM

FYI, just got word from my Hill connections that this bill goes on the House floor next Friday, Sept. 7. Write your representatives!

Posted by: jenw at August 31, 2007 12:24 PM