On January 6, 2014, the 114th Congress officially convened. With respect to intellectual property it is the House Judiciary Committee that will set the agenda for any potential legislative reform over the next two years. Generally, the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet leads the way, at least preliminarily, considering legislation and holding hearings.
The House IP Subcommittee seems to be in store for a very different role in the 114th Congress. Perhaps it is better to say that it seems that Judiciary Chairman Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) would prefer the House IP Subcommittee to have little or nothing to do with IP policy over the next several years.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), the controversial former leader of the House Oversight Committee, lost his post at the top of Oversight due to term limits the Republicans apply to leadership positions. Issa did, however, gain the gavel on the IP Subcommittee. Prior to Issa being named Subcommittee Chair, Goodlatte had already informed Issa that copyright reform will be handled by the full Judiciary Committee, not the IP Subcommittee.
On February 5, 2015, Goodlatte bypassed the IP Subcommittee and reintroduced the Innovation Act, which passed in the House during the 113th Congress but then failed in the Senate. Among those also reintroducing Innovation Act were Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, both members of the House IP Subcommittee. Based on press releases and statements coming from Congressman Issa’s office it had been believed that at least one hearing in the IP Subcommittee would be likely prior to reintroduction of the Innovation Act. Hopes of additional Subcommittee consideration were dashed on January 29, 2015, when Goodlatte’s intention reintroduce a bill identical to the Innovation Act were made public.
It appears that Issa may be getting squeezed out, which could mean that the House IP Subcommittee will have a lot less work to do than one might expect in a Congress that will be seeking to push major reforms to both the Copyright Act, the Patent Act and to implement federal trade secret legislation. Nevertheless, it is still worth knowing who the key players could be. With that in mind, and without further ado, here are the Democrats on the House IP Subcommittee. See also 114th Congress: Republicans on the House IP Subcommittee and Meet the Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.
Editorial Note: The Members listed below are not listed by seniority. The listing is done in the order provided on the Subcommittee page.
Jerrold Nadler (NY-10)
Representative Jerrold “Jerry” Nadler was born June 13, 1947, in Brooklyn, New York. Nadler is a graduate of Columbia University and Fordham University School of Law. He began his political career in 1976 in the New York State Assembly, where he served for 16 years. In 1992, following the death of Congressman Ted Weiss, Nadler was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election and has served in Congress ever since. Nadler was re-elected to his eleventh full term in 2012, receiving over 80 percent of the vote. Nadler represents one of the nation’s most dynamic and diverse districts, includes Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Theater District and Times Square, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Wall Street, and several Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Nadler has been selected by Democrats to be the Ranking Member of the House IP Subcommittee. Upon his selection to serve in this position Nadler stated via press release:
I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as the Ranking Democrat on this important subcommittee. I look forward to working with our nation’s most innovative companies and talented individuals on issues affecting patents and trademarks, information technology, and the internet. I also expect to continue to play a major role in the Judiciary Committee’s copyright review. Our intellectual property laws are at the core of how we consume media, from watching TV and listening to music to enjoying a movie or sharing photos. We will seek to strike the right balance between how artists, authors, musicians, photographers and other content creators are compensated for their work with the desire of technology companies to provide new and innovative ways for consumers to access this content like never before.
In a recent speech at the Grammy Foundation Entertainment Law Initiative luncheon in Los Angeles, Nadler, a long-time friend of the entertainment industry and content creators, explained that the copyright system is broken, and that he looks forward to working to fix the system.
Nadler co-introduced the Innovation Act with Goodlatte on February 5, 2015.
Judy Chu (CA-32)
Representative Judy Chu born July 7, 1953, in Los Angeles, California. Chu earned a B.A. in mathematics from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Chu began her career as an educator and taught psychology at Los Angeles City College and East Los Angeles College for 20 years. She was first elected to the Garvey School District Board of Education in 1985, was subsequently elected to the Monterey Park City Council, where she also served as Mayor. Chu was then elected to the California State Assembly, where she was Chair of the Appropriations Committee. Chu was elected to Congress in July 2009 in a special election to fill the vacant seat left by Hilda Solis, who had just been confirmed as President Obama’s Secretary of Labor.
In July 2013, along with Representative Issa, Chu introduced a bill that would have expanded Covered Business Method (CBM) review to encompass all software patents.
In statement supporting the Innovation Act in December 2013, Chu railed against patent trolls and abusive patent litigation. She then explained that she was going to vote for the Innovation Act despite having problems with most of the bills provisions. “While the bill is not perfect, the Innovation Act is a promising first step towards reining in these abusive tactics,” Chu continued. “I still have concerns with provisions that address fee shifting, the federal judiciary and patent claim construction. We must fully fund the patent office to ensure strong patent quality. But this conversation will continue beyond today’s vote, and my hope is to see these concerns addressed as the debate shifts to the Senate.”
Ted Deutch (FL-19)
Representative Ted Deutch was born May 7, 1966, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Deutch graduated from the University of Michigan and then from the University of Michigan School of Law. Prior to running for Congress, Deutch worked as a commercial development attorney in Florida, and served in the Florida Senate from 2007-2010. In late 2009, Deutch announced he would be a candidate in the special election to fill the vacated seat of Representative Robert Wexler. On April 13, 2010, Deutch prevailed in the special election and was sworn in as a Member of Congress on April 15, 2010. Although a relatively new face at the Capitol, Deutch is already an Assistant Whip to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Deutch he has been highlighted by Roll Call as a young, rising voice in the House Democratic Caucus. He was also named one of America’s top Jewish politicians to watch by the Forward newspaper.
In May 2013, Deutch introduced the End Anonymous Patents Act, which would require any sales or transfers of patents to be disclosed to the Patent and Trade Office, along with a notice of the real party in interest filing by the purchasing entity. In November 2013, Deutch (D-FL) joined Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) to introduce bipartisan legislation to tackle the growing problem of patent trolls. The Demand Letter Transparency Act sought to end vague patent infringement demand letters that often make allegations that the use of common, everyday technology is in violation of a patent holders’ rights.
Karen Bass (CA-33)
Representative Karen Bass was born October 3, 1953, in Los Angeles, California. She attended San Diego State University, but graduated from California State University in 1990 with a B.S. in health sciences. Thereafter she worked for nearly a decade as a Physician Assistant and served as a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program. She was elected to the California State Assembly in 2004, and served as Speaker of the House from 2008 to 2010, the first African American woman to be Speaker in the U.S. She is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was elected to Congress in November 2012, and sworn in on January 3, 2013.
Cedric Richmond (LA-2)
Representative Cedric Richmond was born September 13, 1973, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Richmond is a graduate of Morehouse College, Tulane School of Law and the Harvard University executive program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Prior to being elected to Congress, Richmond was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2000 at the age of 26, making him one of the youngest legislators in the state’s history. In the Louisiana House of Representatives, he served as the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, and he also served on the Ways and Means, House Executive, and Legislative Audit Advisory Committees. Richmond was elected to Congress on November 2, 2010. He currently serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on the Judiciary. He also serves on the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee and as a Senior Whip to the House Democratic Whip.
Suzan DelBene (WA-1)
Representative Suzan DelBene was born February 17, 1962, in Selma, Alabama. Her family moved to Washington State while she was in the fourth grade. DelBene is a graduate of Reed College and earned a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Washington. Prior to entering public office, DelBene spent 12 years at Microsoft, most recently as corporate vice president of the company’s mobile communications business. DelBene first ran for Congress in 2010, losing to Representative Reihert in the general election. Subsequently, also in 2010, she was appointed by Governor Gregoire to be the Director of the Washington State Department of Revenue. DelBene again ran for Congress in 2012, this time running in the newly redrawn 1st District. She defeated her Republican opponent in the general election and was sworn in immediately because this general election was also a special election to fill the remainder of the term of then Representative Jay Inslee, who stepped down and ultimately was elected Governor of the State of Washington.
On December 5, 2013, Representative DelBene spoke in support of the Innovation Act, saying:
Because of the widespread impact of abusive litigation like this, there is broad support across industry and among public interest groups for measures that reduce the financial incentive for bad actors to bring predatory patent suits — measures such as curbing the excessive cost of litigation and discovery abuse, making patent cases more efficient, and requiring plaintiffs to be precise in their claims of infringement.
The Innovation Act would do all of these things, and it does so by targeting abusive behaviors rather than singling out any particular type of patent holder or business model.
Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8)
Representative Hakeem Jeffries was born August 4, 1970, in Brooklyn Hospital and raised in Crown Heights. He is a graduate of Binghamton University, holds a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University, and a law degree from New York University School of Law. Following the completion of law school, Hakeem clerked for the Honorable Harold Baer Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Thereafter he practiced law for several years at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and also at Godosky and Gentile. Prior to his election to the Congress, Jeffries served for six years in the New York State Assembly, winning re-election in 2008 and 2010 with 98% of the vote. He was elected to Congress in November 2012 to replace the retiring Representative Edolphus Towns with over 90% of the vote from his Brooklyn and Queens District. Representative Jeffries serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Budget Committee.
In his short time in Congress Jeffries has already made a name for himself within the intellectual property world. Jeffries has been a champion of the law school clinical programs that allow law students to represent inventors and small businesses before the Patent and Trademark Office while working under the supervision of attorneys. Jeffries has also introduced alternative patent reform legislation in July 2013, which would have focused only on patent litigation matters.
Jeffries has a page on his official website dedicated to intellectual property issues, which is noteworthy given that the overwhelming majority of elected officials do not mention intellectual property, or mention it only in passing. Further, his IP page starts: “Strong Intellectual Property (IP) protection is an essential bedrock necessary to spur our economy and further American innovation.” Further, based on his press releases and speaking engagements, Jeffries has shown great interest in intellectual property. Given that Jeffries comes from an extremely safe district he can be expected to serve in Congress as long as he chooses. As his seniority increases he should become an increasingly prominent voice on intellectual property issues, particularly if/when Democrats regain control of the House.
David Cicilline (RI-1)
Representative David Cicilline was born on the South Side of Providence, Rhode Island and is one of five children. After graduating from Narragansett High School, Cicilline attended Brown University and later earned a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. After graduating from law school, Cicilline worked as a public defender in the District of Columbia before returning to Rhode Island to practice law. In 1994, he was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives. In 2002, Cicilline elected mayor of the City of Providence, serving as mayor for two terms. In 2010, after Representative Patrick J. Kennedy announced his decision to retire from the House, Cicilline decided to run for Congress. After winning the general election, David was sworn in on January 5, 2011. As a member of the House Committee on Small Business, he was an early supporter of bipartisan legislation, which was signed into law, to repeal the onerous 1099 reporting requirements for small businesses, which had required that small businesses complete 1099 forms each year for any purchase over $600 in value. In addition, he has worked to free up access to capital for small business, and fought to maintain funding for Small Business Development Centers and programs that provide small businesses and entrepreneurs with the targeted assistance they need to start, sustain, and grow their companies.
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Representative Scott Peters earned his undergraduate degree from Duke University and worked as an economist for the United States Environmental Protection Agency before attending New York University School of Law. After a 15-year career as an environmental lawyer, Peters started his political career as after being elected to the San Diego City Council, where he later became the City’s first City Council President. In 2001, the Governor appointed Peters to the Commission on Tax Policy in the New Economy, and in 2002, the Speaker of the Assembly appointed Peters to the California Coastal Commission. Peters was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, and serves California’s 52nd Congressional District, which includes the cities of Coronado, Poway and most of northern San Diego. According to the National Journal in 2013, Peters is the fourth most independent Democrat in Congress.
Zoe Lofgren (CA-16)
Representative Zoe Lofgren was born December 21, 1947, in San Mateo, California. She is a graduate of Stanford University, with a B.A. in political science (1970), and a holds a law degree from the University of Santa Clara School of Law (1975). Prior to running for Congress, she served as Staff Assistant to her predecessor, Congressman Don Edwards, 1970-1978. Lofgren also practiced immigration law as a partner in the firm of Webber & Lofgren, 1978-1980. She served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors from 1981-1994. Lofgren was elected to Congress in 1994. She represents the District that is sometimes referred to as “the District of Silicon Valley,” and was instrumental in bringing a Satellite Patent Office to San Jose, California. Her biography page says: “Zoe is well regarded for her work on patent reform, copyright issues, digital rights, and net neutrality.” This is an understatement. Lofgren is powerful force on the Democrat side of the isle when it comes to intellectual property, the Internet and legislation relating to technology or more broadly technology companies. While you may sometimes disagree with her positions or politics, you cannot argue her familiarity with the industry and issues facing the industry. Given her long tenure and the district she represents, Lofgren is always an important player in intellectual property reforms.
Lofgren co-introduced the Innovation Act with Goodlatte on February 5, 2015.
Steve Cohen (TN-9)
Congressman Steve Cohen earned his college degree from Vanderbilt University, and later a degree from the Memphis School of Law. Prior to being elected to the House of Representatives, Cohen served as Shelby County Commissioner, and also spent 24 years in the Tennessee State Senate. Upon election to Congress in 2006, Cohen quickly earned a reputation as a champion of civil rights and justice, serving on the House Judiciary Committee, with then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi referring to him as the “conscience of the freshman class” in 2008. In 2014, Cohen received perfect voting record recognition from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and he also received perfect voting record recognition on the Food Policy Action’s National Food Policy Scorecard. In 2010 he received the ABA Day Award for his work to promote equal access to justice. A review of his complete biography shows Cohen is deeply involved in many area where the House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction, but there is no reason to suspect he is particularly interested in matters relating to intellectual property.
Hank Johnson (GA-4)
Representative Henry “Hank” Johnson, Jr., born October 2, 1954. He grew up in Washington, DC. Johnson graduated from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1976 and received his law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston in 1979. Prior to his election to Congress, Representative Johnson served twelve (12) years as a DeKalb County magistrate judge, five (5) years as a county commissioner and three (3) years as chair of the DeKalb County Budget Committee. Johnson also practiced civil and criminal law in DeKalb County for twenty-seven (27) years. Johnson was elected to Congress in November 2006, and sworn in on January 3, 2007.
During a Committee hearing on patent reform in June 2013, Johnson warned that legislation targeting patent trolls could open the door to deny plaintiffs “their right to go to court in other tort situations.”
Johnson has also been a long-time supporter of the USPTO retaining their fees. During a floor speech in July 2011, Johnson strongly supported the passage of the America Invents Act, although he said he would have preferred stronger language that would have guaranteed the USPTO could keep all of the fees it collected.