Thursday, July 26, 2007

Manufacturing and Labor Strike Back on Patent Reform

Amidst of a flurry of lobbying activity (one lobbyist joked that every shop in town was represented in the House Judiciary Committee room during the bill's markup) , Congress held informal meetings with diverse groups, including members of the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturing has been irked over the cool reception they've perceived during the Congressional hearings. William J. Jones, chairman of Cummins-Allison Corp. stated the following in an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune:

At the recent Senate hearing, not a single manufacturing firm was invited to testify -- even though technological innovation and industrial advancement are closely intertwined. Indeed, U.S. manufacturers undertake 60 to 70 percent of the nation's research and development and hold 60 percent of its patents.
Also, Bill Heming, Chief IP Officer of Caterpillar, reportedly
[w]alked into the House Manufacturing Caucus to talk about the controversial patent reform bill with a Tonka-sized model of his company's Caterpillar bulldozer still wrapped in its store packaging. He placed the toy tractor on the dais in front of him and told lawmakers and staff that if the legislation passes, it would be far easier for foreign companies to rip off American innovators -- including the men who long ago developed Caterpillar's flagship bulldozer.
Now, the AFL/CIO has gotten into the mix, by issuing a letter to John Conyers (D-MI) and Lamar Smith (R-TX), voicing their opposition to key provisions in the Patent Reform Act:

Recently we have heard from a number of manufacturers regarding their concerns with certain sections of H.R. 1908 and the effect it will have on the U.S. patent system. Many of our union members work in manufacturing, and we want to make sure that patent law reforms do not undermine our leadership in innovation, and that they help the American economy produce good new jobs and products at home.

The National Academies of Science WAS) has suggested a set of improvements for the patent system. However, the Patent Reform Act of 2007, while offering some needed changes, does not reflect the body of improvements suggested by NAS and would, in some ways, weaken our patent system. We are concerned in particular that two sections of the proposed legislation, the post-patent review process and apportionment of damages, may have a negative impact on innovation and research . . . We urge you to take the concerns of the manufacturing sectors of these issues into account in developing the final version of the Patent Reform Act of 2007, H.R. 1908.

Read the AFL/CIO letter here (link)

See The Politico article, titled "Tech v. Tech: The Patent War" (link) - the article has a nice table of lobbying group tactics and allies on Capitol Hill.

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