Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Outraged at Senator McCaskill over Sovereign Immunity Bill

By Gene Quinn
October 6, 2017

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Yesterday, United States Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced legislation that would strip Native American Indian Tribes of the ability to assert sovereign immunity in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings at the United States Patent and Trademark Office conducted by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

The hastily thrown together bill would only discriminate against Native American Indian Tribes and would allow state universities to continue to assert sovereign immunity pursuant to the PTAB’s January 2017 decision relating to a patent owned by the University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF). See UFRF’s Win on 11th Amendment at the PTAB.

Also peculiar, to say the least, McCaskill’s bill would only prevent Native American Indian Tribes from asserting sovereign immunity in IPR proceedings, but they could still assert sovereign immunity in post grant review (PGR) proceedings and covered business method (CBM) proceedings.

Why McCaskill would submit a bill that obviously discriminates against Native American Indian Tribes is unclear, although some are speculating that McCaskill, who is up for reelection in 2018, may become the champion of the patent infringer lobby in the coming months. Skeptical observers wonder whether this has to do with fundraising, which McCaskill has been separately Tweeting about recently. McCaskill has reportedly said she will need at least $30 million to mount a reelection campaign, and expects some $200 million to be spent by outside groups.

Meanwhile, McCaskill’s seemingly calculated ploy to get out in front of other Senators, all alone in her demand for a legislative solution that strips Native American Indian Tribes of sovereign immunity, may backfire. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, which acquired the Allergan RESTASIS® patents and then granted back to Allergan an exclusive license, issued a scathing statement, saying the Tribe is outraged that the legislation specifically targets Indian tribes while exempting state universities and other sovereign governments. The statement reads:

“The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is outraged that U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), has introduced legislation that specifically targets Indian tribes, yet exempts state universities and other sovereign governments engaged in the very same IPR process.  The double standard that is being introduced by the Senator as a solution for a perceived abuse of the IPR proceedings does nothing to solve the underlying problem. The Tribes authority is inherent and has been reaffirmed through treaties and legislation from the earliest days of the country.

It is cruelly ironic that Indian Tribes, with the highest unmet health care needs in the entire country, are being attacked for exercising their sovereign obligation to fill gaps in health coverage caused by the federal government’s abject failure to uphold its trust responsibility.  The fact that the Mohawk community is home to three unmitigated EPA Superfund sites that harm the health of the community and surrounding non-Native communities is a stark example of the government’s failure.  Congress shouldn’t double down on its mistakes by denying the Tribe’s sovereign authority in the IPR process.

As the largest private employer in Northern New York, the Tribe has a responsibility to ensure the livelihood and well-being of its tribal members and its hundreds of non-Native employees. The Tribe remains committed to working with all Members of Congress to discuss how its recent economic diversification efforts benefits the Tribe, its members, and the surrounding communities without harming competition among pharmaceutical companies (both private and generic) or artificially inflating drug prices.”

Meanwhile, headlines such as Sen. McCaskill unveils unprecedented bill to abrogate tribal sovereign immunity can already be found in Native American news outlets. Tribal governments all across the country are meeting to discuss this attack, which occurred without even a single hearing in the Senate.

Defenders of McCaskill’s here on IPWatchdog.com have already made comments that can only be characterized as racist, which will only cause this ill-conceived and unforced error to blow even further out of control as that backwards mentality spreads.

“Creative avoidance of PTAB will continue to flourish as long as PTAB is permitted to discriminate against patent holders,” Chris Gallagher commented. He is exactly right — that is what this is all about. Instead of discriminating against Native American Indians and stripping Tribes of sovereign immunity Senator McCaskill ought to look at the root problem, which is a PTAB that discriminates against patent owners and operates like a Kangaroo court. See Transgressions of the PTAB.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 13 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Bemused October 6, 2017 12:27 pm

    Native Americans have historically voted on a Democratic party line basis. If this misguided nonsense from Democratic Senator McCaskill continues, emphasis in the preceding sentence on the word “historically.”

  2. The Time Is Now To Act October 6, 2017 1:58 pm

    Hi Gene- I thought I would bring this organization to your attention; which has a DC office. They have litigation support as well as train Native Americans as attorneys.

    Executive Director Echohawk (National Law Review Top 100 most influential) and K. Jerome Gottschalk are good contacts. Echohawk is reachable at their Boulder office number.

    https://www.narf.org/about-us/staff/

  3. Charles Barton October 6, 2017 3:28 pm

    It is misdirection only to attack the PTAB as a kangaroo court. The PTAB acts at someone’s behest. Programs like SAWS and Second Look don’t come out of nowhere.

    Identifying PTAB misbehavior doesn’t hurt, but really the SEC and the FBI should be groveling through all the records of the USPTO because of some strong indications of the violation of the STOCK Act

  4. Anon October 6, 2017 6:01 pm

    Interesting comment Charles.

    But I think that the designation of “kangaroo court” already implies that there is a non-partial actor to whom or for whom the court is beholding to.

  5. Bluejay October 6, 2017 7:00 pm

    Oil States ends the PTAB fraud.

  6. Anon October 6, 2017 7:44 pm

    Bluejay,

    One can only hope….

  7. Benny October 7, 2017 6:46 am

    Is this discrimination against Native American tribes, or is it equality with non “Native” Americans ?

  8. Anon October 7, 2017 9:27 am

    Benny,

    perhaps both…

  9. Pro Se October 7, 2017 10:44 am

    Monday, November 27

    Oil States is case (1) and SAS is case (2).

    The drama can’t ever be higher for the future of patent health than this. I’ll be on line at the Supreme Court this day.

  10. Joachim Martillo October 7, 2017 2:30 pm

    I am not sure that Kangaroo Court implies secret direction. I have generally understood it as a court that jumps to conclusions on the basis of non-facts — a black defendant is guilty because all blacks are either criminals or potential criminals.

    The phrase “star chamber” is more suggestive of conspiracy.

  11. Anon October 7, 2017 3:08 pm

    Joachim,

    “non-partial” is not to be confused with “secret.”

    And while “conspiracy” need not be ultra-secret, I am not certainly suggesting that the putative “conspiracy” is afoot.

    As anyone with any access to a minimuem amount of “investigative” prowess could tell you, Google et al. has not been that “secretive” about either the number of trips or the amount of lobbying money that they have spent.

    Exactly WHAT those trips discussed…

    That’s a different matter.

    Non-partial

  12. Anon October 7, 2017 3:09 pm

    (oops – that last “non-partial” was an inadvertent typing)

  13. Dozens October 9, 2017 2:14 pm

    “The hastily thrown together bill would only discriminate against Native American Indian Tribes and would allow state universities to continue to assert sovereign immunity”

    Translation: “The bill would only waive sovereign immunity as to the entities whose sovereign immunity Congress has the constitutional authority to waive, but would not waive sovereign immunity where the XI amendment denies Congress the power to make such a waiver.”

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