Joff Wild

This blog has a high-quality readership, if I say so myself. All you have to do to see that I am right is to take a look at some of the comments people take the time to craft and then post in response to stories that I have run. I worry that because they may relate to pieces that were written a while back, not enough people get to see them. With this in mind, there are a couple of recent comments from readers that I am going to highlight today.

The first comes from John Pegram, a senior principal at US law firm Fish & Richardson. John was writing in response to a blog that I posted a couple of weeks back about possible splits in the Coalition for Patent Fairness, the pro-Patent Reform Act lobbying organisation in the US composed almost exclusively of companies in the high-tech sector (incidentally, F&R has put put together a very handy primer on the Act, which fills you in on exactly where it stands). This is what John has to say:

I suggest that the U.S. Congress is now in a mode in which the political process will dominate patent law reform legislation and the various interest groups will have much less influence than they have had until last month. The Congressional leadership clearly wants to enact a patent reform law this year. Also, the current bill is a compromise and many members of Congress believe that reaching compromises is an important part of their job. In my opinion, the arguments of some groups that there should be no patent legislation without including their position, will no longer be very influential.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 15-4 on April 3rd to send S. 515, as amended, to the Senate floor. I watched the final committee hearing on the Internet. The committee members emphasized that this bill a compromise. Clearly, Republican Senators Hatch and Kyl were disappointed, because their suggestions were not included. In part, at least, that non-inclusion is a result of change in control of both the Congress and the Presidency from their party to the Democratic party. But, in the spirit of compromise, Committee Chairman Leahy indicated that discussions with Senators Hatch and Kyl would continue.

Although interest groups will try to assert their positions again, and will be heard, it seems likely there will not be complex changes from the current bill, due to the momentum created by the April 3rd compromise. The House Judiciary Committee probably will adopt some amendments (that being the nature of legislators); however, the fact that the bill comes to them as a bipartisan compromise probably will be influential. It also is likely that amendments will be offered on the Senate floor and on the House floor. At least some of those amendments may be offered so that the members of Congress can tell his or her constituents that “I tried.”

While it is possible that progress of the bill could be blocked, especially if 60 (of 100) votes cannot be obtained in the Senate, I suggest that the dissenters in Congress probably will conclude that they should state their positions and then move on. Frankly, patent law reform is not sufficiently interesting to voters to justify delaying action by Congress on other important matters, for example, matters affecting the economy and health care. Further, a compromise on a patent reform law may be useful in defending against charges that the minority is obstructing legislation of all types.

Of course, this is only my own opinion, as an outsider; but one with over 40 years experience in patent law and watching the development of legislation.