On October 16, 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that twelve Republican senators – apparently feeling left out of the patent reform process – wrote a letter to Senate leaders asking them to reconsider parts of the Patent Reform Act of 2009 that would be deleterious to small businesses, universities and individual inventors.
The article quotes AIPR’s board member Pat Choate as one of the critics of the patent reform bills currently making their way through Congress.
The letter was written by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and signed by eleven other Republicans. One of the senators’ major criticisms is the provision for post-grant review of patents.
"These so-called post-grant review provisions, as currently crafted, are quite problematic," the letter says, because even a single post-grant patent review can cost a business or inventor market advantage and/or venture capital funding.
A second criticism raised by the twelve Republican senators – and other critics of the pending patent legislation – is that Congress seems to be in the back pocket of big tech, so to speak: some of the higher-ups in Obama’s administration who are supporters of the patent reform bills also happen to have ties to IBM and Microsoft.
For example, David Kappos, the Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, was the General Counsel of IBM’s IP department for years until his appointment at the helm of the USPTO. The WSJ piece reports that “Marc Berejka, a senior official handling intellectual property matters, worked for Microsoft for the 12 years leading up to his July 2009 hiring, including eight years as a lobbyist for the company.”
And Commerce Secretary Gary Locke received $96,000 in campaign donations from Microsoft employees while running for re-election as Washington state governor in 2000 – and also owned “between $100,000 and $250,000 of Microsoft stock until divesting it on June 22 as a condition of his appointment,” as reported by the WSJ.
“Patent policy is suddenly being run by advocates for Microsoft and IBM,” commented Pat Choate, an economist and AIPR board member who was quoted in the WSJ article.
Though some other patent reform critics such as Brian Pomper, executive director of Innovation Alliance, feel that the government is working on patent reform “in good faith,” these big-business ties are nonetheless troubling because the stakes are so high for inventors, small companies and academics who rely on a strong patent system to protect their hard-earned intellectual property.
To read the full text of the article, “Senators, Inventors Criticize Patent Bill Favored by Tech Cos.,” on the Wall Street Journal website, click here (subscription required).