Politics – and Patent Legislation – Make Strange Bedfellows

An interesting and disparate coalition of groups has come out in opposition to the proposed Patent Reform Act of 2009, groups that traditionally have nothing to do with each other.

  • Pharmaceutical Industry: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the major drug companies.
  • Biotech: The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) represents research, genetics and other biotech companies.
  • High-Tech: The Innovative Alliance represents high-tech companies in IT, telecommunications, consumer electronics and other industries.
  • Manufacturing: The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform represents large manufacturers and industrial businesses such as 3M, GE, Pepsico and Exxon-Mobil.
  • Labor Unions: Here’s the kicker. Many of the businesses that belong to BIO and Innovative Alliance are non-union, and among those business that are members of the Coalition that are unionized, there is little simpatico between management and labor, yet the umbrella organization for the vast majority of the labor unions in the US, the AFL-CIO, is also opposed to the Patent Reform Act of 2009!
  • Inventors and IP Professionals: American Innovators for Patent Reform represents inventors, researchers, small businesses and entrepreneurs, engineers, and IP professionals such a patent agents, patent attorneys and patent litigators.
  • Other Groups: The Business and Industry Council (USBIC) represents a broad-based coalition of 28 business, religious and social groups.

It is indeed unusual for any single piece of legislation to draw opposition from so many groups representing such diverse interests.

Stifling innovation

As usual, the proposed legislation obviously seems to put the "little guys" at a distinct disadvantage, from the first-to-file proposal to the damages provisions. When you think about it, though, the same provisions would also make high-tech, biotech, etc., unhappy -- because, fundamentally, the proposed Act erodes IP rights in general and to some extent discourages (or at least disadvantages) innovation.