Key Republicans on Patent Reform in 114th Congress


Over the last several days on, we have published articles introducing the Republicans serving on the House IP Subcommittee and the Republicans serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the coming days, we will publish similar profiles of the Democrats.

Today, we focus on four key players on the Republican side of the aisle that will influence any patent reform efforts – Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Each of the aforementioned Members of Congress are on record supporting patent reform of some kind during the 114th Congress.

Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The primary subcommittee dealing with intellectual property matters in the House of Representatives is the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, which is a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. This means that Congressman Bob Goodlatte will have an extremely important role with respect to shepherding any intellectual property legislation through Congress over the next two years. Goodlatte has signaled that he will focus his own energies on copyright reform, deciding to keep any copyright reforms the purview of the entire Judiciary Committee. Still, Goodlatte has shown keen interest in the patent system over the years, including the most recently failed patent reform legislation during the 113th Congress. You can rest assured he will be heavily engaged in the 114th Congress.

Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House IP Subcommittee

Congressman Darrell Issa is a prolific inventor, holding 37 patents in his name. He was elected to Congress in November 2000. As head of the House Oversight Committee for the past six years, Issa became a polarizing figure in Washington. Republican rules prohibited him from continuing as Chair of the House Oversight Committee, so during the 114th, Congress Issa will become Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. Issa has never been afraid of controversy, and he never shies away from the spotlight. This has lead many  to predict that he will try and make a name for himself with respect to IP matters, particularly patent matters, particularly since copyright reform has been taken away from the Subcommittee.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

Senator Grassley is the senior Senator from Iowa, and he is the new Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Grassley has also publicly expressed great interest in patent reform, although he has historically not wanted to rush through unless there was a bipartisan agreement.  In April 2014, Grassley pumped the brakes, acknowledging that there were significant differences of opinion on the need for additional reform, and saying that he wanted to wait for a bipartisan bill to emerge rather than rushing to get something done. With growing concern within the industry about the necessity for additional patent reform, Grassley’s pragmatic approach could slow things down. Having said that, Grassley is on the record about wanting to do something about patent trolls and abusive litigation.

hatch_listSenator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT)

Senator Hatch, the senior Senator from Utah, is a previous Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. With the Republican takeover of the Senate, Hatch has taken charge of the Senate Finance Committee, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have interest in patent reform. Hatch has long been a strong supporter of intellectual property rights, both copyrights for content creators and patent rights for inventors. For years, Hatch criticized the law of inequitable conduct, which eventually lead to the creation of supplemental examination. Hatch has more recently been highly critical of patent trolls and patent litigation abuse. Hatch also takes intellectual property matters more seriously than virtually everyone else in Congress. It is rare to see a political website devote even a single page to intellectual property policy, but Hatch’s official Senate website does indeed have a page dedicated to IP matters. In July 2014, Hatch said that patent trolls must be a top priority for Congress. Expect Hatch to be at or near the center of any patent reform efforts in the 114th Congress.

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