Another patent reform advocate to retire from House of Representatives


Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018 and will retire from Congress. Issa, who currently chairs the House’s Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, has been an outspoken advocate for the need for more patent reform.

Issa’s decision not to seek re-election means that the three most ardent Republican supporters of patent reform in the House will not return for the 116th Congress in January 2019. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced his retirement in November 2017. Former House Judiciary Chairman and co-sponsor of the America Invents Act (AIA) Congressman Lamar Smith similarly announced his retirement in November 2017.

If Republicans hold on to a majority in the House, it seems likely that Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) will take over as Chair of the House IP Subcommittee. Collins, an ally to inventors and creators, is currently Vice-Chair of the House IP Subcommittee.

While many patent owners and independent inventors will celebrate Issa’s decision to retire, his legacy on patent issues is a complicated one.

“As a patent owner himself, Chairman Issa understood the importance of a strong IP system,” said Todd Dickinson, former Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and current partner at Polsinelli.  “While some differed with him on his approach to specific reforms, his heart was always with the system, so losing someone who knew the patent system personally will be a loss.”

Whether Issa was a hero or villain on matters of patent reform will largely be in the eye of the beholder. Many large corporations — such as Google, Cisco and J.C. Penney — have continued to seek additional patent reform ever since the AIA was signed by President Obama in September 2011, and have found Issa to be a strong ally.

What is not open for debate, however, is Issa’s influence in a positive way on how the federal courts structurally handle and assign patent lawsuits. “He should specifically be remembered for initiating the legislation that ultimately lead to the judicial Patent Pilot Program, which has been a successful attempt to create focus and training among District Courts and their judges having a particular interest in patent cases,” Dickinson said.

Should the Democrats take the House of Representatives in the next election cycle probably either Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who is the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, or perhaps Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), would become the new Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Both Nadler and Lofgren have been supporters of patent reform efforts in the past. Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) is currently the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, and could perhaps ascend to Chair the House IP Subcommittee. Johnson has taken positions in the past favorable to patent owners, such as his Amendment that would have substantially changed the fee-shifting provisions of the Innovation Act.

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