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Posts in Capitol Hill

Senator Bob Dole: A Staunch Defender of His Country, and Our Patent System

If you’re going into a desperate fight, there are some people that you want on your side. One was Robert Dole, who passed away yesterday, December 5, at 98 years old….. It was characteristic of his generation—and of Bob Dole—to honor his fallen colleagues, even when he was bound in a wheelchair. Few who saw it will ever forget Senator Dole insisting on getting up and walking to the coffin of his friend, Senator Daniel Inouye, who lost an arm fighting in Italy, close to where Dole was wounded. Even though his health was deteriorating last year when we honored Bayh-Dole’s 40th anniversary, Senator Dole made a very gracious video tribute to his former colleague, Senator Birch Bayh. That Birch Bayh and Daniel Inouye were Democrats made no difference to Bob Dole.

The PTAB Desperately Needs Reform, Not Preservation

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), created by the America Invents Act (AIA) just over 10 years ago, is the most electrifying lightning rod in the industry. As explained repeatedly by Members of Congress at the time the AIA was enacted, the purpose was to create a streamlined, less expensive, alternative administrative means to challenge the invalidity of issued patents. Sadly, with that being the stated purpose, the creation of the PTAB can be objectively characterized as nothing other than an abysmal failure. What has evolved is anything but streamlined, and certainly not inexpensive, even compared with district court litigation.

Tillis and Other Senate Republicans Bristle at Biden’s Nomination of Gigi Sohn to the FCC

On November 30, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) wrote a letter  addressed to President Joe Biden asking Biden to withdraw the nomination of Gigi Sohn, a co-founder of the open Internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, to serve as a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Tillis is one of a growing number of Republican lawmakers who are speaking out strongly against Biden’s nomination of Sohn, who previously served as a senior staffer to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during the Obama Administration. Tillis’ letter to President Biden certainly pulls no punches in assessing the likely impact of Sohn’s nomination on copyright owners especially. “[Sohn] is a radical open-content activist with no respect for intellectual property rights,” Tillis wrote. “As an activist, Ms. Sohn has consistently worked against commonsense measures that would crack down on illegal piracy. She has even testified before Congress that ‘piracy has absolutely no effect on [music] prices whatsoever.’”

Vidal Agrees Eligibility Needs More Clarity in Senate Judiciary Committee Questioning of Two IP Nominees

Today, the full Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to question two key IP nominees: Judge Leonard Stark of the of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, who was nominated to replace Judge Kathleen O’Malley on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC); and Katherine Vidal, the nominee for Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). IPWatchdog has previously reported on the qualifications of both candidates and what their appointments might mean for IP law and practice going forward. While neither nominee made any particularly earth shattering statements, as is often the case in such hearings, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), a vocal IP advocate, said he was heartened by Vidal’s acknowledgement that it has become “very difficult to understand the contours of [patent eligibility] law.” Vidal also stated that the current USPTO guidelines on eligibility, which were revised by former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu to provide more clarity, are consistent with the law right now.

Vidal Confirmation Hearing Should Provide a Hint at What’s Ahead for Patent Owners

IPWatchdog has been told that Kathi Vidal, who is President Biden’s nominee for Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), will have her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, December 1. As of the time of publication, the Senate Judiciary Committee, to which the Vidal nomination has been referred, lists a confirmation hearing for the full Committee at 10am on December 1, but provides no additional information. It is believed Vidal will share the hearing with several nominees for federal judicial positions.

This Week in Washington IP: Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Microelectronics, Amending Section 230 Immunity for Big Tech, and the Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics

This week in Washington IP news, committee hearings in the House of Representatives will focus on ways to ensure that America retains global leadership in microelectronics, proposed legislative amendments to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to rein in legal immunities for major online platform providers, and recommendations from the recent decadal survey for astronomy and astrophysics, including recommendations for building a next-generation large telescope. Over in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee will discuss several judicial nominations, including a pair of nominees to sit on the Ninth Circuit. Elsewhere, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation will host the annual Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance summit, while the American Enterprise Institute explores ways that Congress can make minor changes to current antitrust law to increase regulation against anticompetitive Big Tech practices while limiting negative impacts on consumers. 

This Week in Washington IP: Leahy Announces He Won’t Run Again; Demystifying Crypto Assets, and Building Resilience Against Ransomware in the United States.

This week in Washington IP events, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the current Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, announces that he will not seek reelection in 2022; the Joint Congressional Economic Committee gears up for a hearing on demystifying both cryptocurrencies and the federal government’s role in regulating those digital assets. Over in the House of Representatives, the House Energy Committee hosts a mid-week hearing to discuss the potential impacts of supporting research and development in the field of nuclear fusion technology, while the House Oversight Committee explores efforts that U.S. law enforcement officials have been taking to curb the rising threat of ransomware. Elsewhere, The Brookings Institution hosts a conversation with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to discuss the impact of 21st century innovations on the American workforce, while the Center for Data Innovation discusses the impact of decisions by major Internet browser providers to end third-party cookies for tracking browser activity.

Tai Tells Tillis Support for COVID-TRIPS Waiver is Not Political but Based on ‘Extraordinary Circumstances’ of the Pandemic

Following four letters sent by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to United State Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai regarding the proposed waiver of intellectual property rights under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, Tai on November 8 replied to a July 14  letter sent by Tillis and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR). That letter referred Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to a May 19 letter in which Tillis, Cotton and 14 other senators requested responses to 10 questions on the proposal to waive IP rights for COVID-19 related technology. The May 19 letter had requested Tai and Raimondo’s responses by July 19, 2021.

Massie Introduces Bill to Repeal PTAB, Abrogate Alice

Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) on November 5 introduced a bill, titled the Restoring America’s Leadership in Innovation Act of 2021 (RALIA), HR 5874, that would repeal the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), return the patent system to a “first-to-invent” model, rather than first-to-file, and would end automatic publication of patents. Inventor groups such as US Inventor and conservative groups are supporting the legislation.

Criticism of Judge Albright Looms Large in Tillis Letters to Hirshfeld, Chief Justice Roberts

On November 2, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) sent a pair of letters regarding issues in district court patent litigation—one addressed to Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and another letter co-written with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) addressed to Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court. While never mentioned by name, U.S. District Judge Alan D. Albright is unmistakably the subject of both letters, which expressed serious concerns about “unrealistic trial dates” and “open solicit[ation]” of patent cases from a single judge in the Waco Division of the Western District of Texas.

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing: E-Commerce Platforms Have Curbed Infringement, But Counterfeits and Safety Problems Persist

The full Senate Judiciary Committee convened today for a hearing titled, “Cleaning Up Online Marketplaces: Protecting Against Stolen, Counterfeit, and Unsafe Goods,” in which witnesses explained the continuing challenges of policing stolen and counterfeit products in online marketplaces. The panelists included small business owners, internet platform advocates, academics and retail store representatives.

This Week in Washington IP: Cleaning Up Counterfeit Goods from Online Marketplaces, The Impacts of Automation on the Future of Work, and Digital Trade in the EU

This week in Washington IP news, the Senate Judiciary Committee hosts a hearing Tuesday morning to discuss various legislative efforts designed to address the rampant issue of counterfeit goods sold online by third-party sellers on major e-commerce platforms. Over in the House of Representatives, the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity takes a closer look at technological automation and its likely impacts on the future of work in America, while the House Financial Technology Task Force examines issues with the growing “buy now, pay later” fintech sector. Elsewhere, the Center for Data Information examines how online advertising has helped grow the European economy, while the Center for Strategic & International Studies provides a critique of the EU’s Digital Markets Act and unintended economic consequences that may come from the EU’s passage of that bill.

Industry Reacts to Kathi Vidal Nomination

Following yesterday’s announcement of Kathi Vidal as President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), IP professionals largely expressed their congratulations and support based on her strong credentials. However, many acknowledged the hard road she has ahead of her—first before the Senate Judiciary Committee and, once confirmed, tackling the many challenges facing the USPTO. Here is what some stakeholders had to say about her nomination.

Kathi Vidal Has Been Nominated to Head USPTO

As predicted by IPWatchdog, Kathi Vidal has now been officially nominated by President Joe Biden as the next Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office at the Department of Commerce. Vidal is one of five nominations announced today. She would replace Drew Hirshfeld, who has been serving under the title, Performing the Duties and Functions of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

This Week in Washington IP: Deregulating Agricultural Biotechnology, State Sovereign Immunity and IP Infringement, and Copyright Law in Artificial Intelligence

This week in Washington IP events, the U.S. House of Representatives hosts a pair of committee hearings on tech subjects, including a joint hearing of the House Biotechnology Subcommittee and the House Livestock Subcommittee to look at how the current market approval process for agricultural biotechnology products could be made less cumbersome to encourage commercialization. Elsewhere, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hosts an event exploring the intersection of copyright law and artificial intelligence, while the Hudson Institute takes a look at studies by the USPTO and the U.S. Copyright Office on state sovereign immunity from IP infringement suits.