In Memoriam: Senator Orrin Hatch

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Photo by Gage Skidmore. CC-BY-SA-2.0.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Photo by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Funeral services will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah,  on Friday, May 6, for Senator Orrin Hatch, who died on Saturday, April 23, 2022, at the age of 88. Hatch was Utah’s longest-serving senator, first sworn in by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller as a member of the 95th Congress in 1977, and co-author of one of the most significant IP bills ever passed, the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act.

According to the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, Hatch was the ninth-longest-serving U.S. Senator in American history at the time of his passing, and upon his retirement had passed more legislation into law than any other Senator alive. In total, he sponsored or cosponsored more than 750 bills that became law.

The Hatch-Waxman Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Extension Act (P.L. 98-417) was intended to strike a balance between two competing policy interests: (1) inducing pioneering research and development of new drugs; and (2) enabling competitors to bring low-cost, generic copies of those drugs to market. While it has been gamed in various ways over the years, it undoubtedly achieved its purpose of increasing the availability of cheaper generic drugs, which today account for 47% of all prescriptions issued in the United States, according to the Hatch Foundation.

Hatch also authored a bill titled the Sanctions for Violation of Software Copyright (P.L. 102-561), which became law in 1992. The bill amended the Federal criminal code “to revise the penalties for infringing a copyright willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain,” imposing: “(1) five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both for the unlawful reproduction or distribution of at least ten copies or phonorecords of a copyrighted work with a retail value of more than $2,500; (2) ten years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both for a second or subsequent offense; and (3) one year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both in any other case.”

In 1995, Hatch became chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position he held until 2001. He introduced and passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act (P.L. 114-153) in 2016, one of the most influential IP bills of the last decade, which created a private right of action for companies to protect trade secrets in federal court.

Hatch was born on March 22, 1934, in Homestead Park, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Brigham Young University and won a full honors scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh Law School, where he earned his law degree with honors in 1962.

He spent several years as a trial lawyer in Pittsburgh before moving to Utah, in 1969. He often represented people in need, such as injured railroad workers, small businessmen, and many others who often could not pay for his services, notes the Hatch Foundation website.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six children.

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  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    May 1, 2022 10:53 am

    Orrin Hatch.

    A giant of the Senate.

    A giant for America.