Why Harry Reid Blocked Patent Reform

As negotiations fell apart Wednesday, Republicans and reform advocates began throwing stones at the majority leader.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) leaves the Capitol building on October 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. Congress continues to struggle to find a solution to end the government shutdown, which is currently in its 13th day. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
National Journal
Dustin Volz
May 21, 2014, 12:10 p.m.

A bi­par­tis­an com­prom­ise meant to slay “pat­ent trolls” quickly fell apart Wed­nes­day in the Sen­ate, and stake­hold­ers wasted little time cast­ing blame on Harry Re­id.

The ma­jor­ity lead­er told Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Patrick Leahy this morn­ing that a pat­ent-lit­ig­a­tion re­form bill would not get to the floor even if it passed through Leahy’s pan­el, ac­cord­ing to mul­tiple sources close to the ne­go­ti­ations on and off Cap­it­ol Hill.

The warn­ing, those sources say, is due in large part to op­pos­i­tion from a di­verse ar­ray of in­terests who were not fully sup­port­ive of the re­form ef­forts: tri­al at­tor­neys, the bi­otech in­dustry, and phar­ma­ceut­ic­al com­pan­ies.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4880) }}

Bring­ing a vote to the floor, one pat­ent lob­by­ist said, would likely have split the Demo­crat­ic caucus, es­pe­cially be­cause many rely on tri­al law­yers for sub­stan­tial cam­paign dona­tions. That con­stitu­ency has re­peatedly ex­pressed re­ser­va­tions about sweep­ing le­gis­la­tion aimed at pat­ent trolls — Cap­it­ol Hill short­hand for com­pan­ies that pur­chase cheap pat­ents and use them for profit by fil­ing ques­tion­able in­fringe­ment law­suits in hopes of set­tling.

Sen. John Cornyn — the lead­er of the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s pro-pat­ent-re­form bloc — seized on the ar­gu­ment that Re­id was at fault for killing the bill.

“Pat­ent re­form is something the White House wants, House Demo­crats sup­por­ted, and an area where there’s bi­par­tis­an agree­ment in the Sen­ate,” Cornyn said in a state­ment. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing the Ma­jor­ity Lead­er has al­lowed the de­mands of one spe­cial in­terest group to trump a bi­par­tis­an will in Con­gress and the over­whelm­ing sup­port of in­nov­at­ors and job cre­at­ors.”

Re­id’s of­fice did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Un­der pres­sure from Re­id, Leahy is­sued a state­ment that his pan­el was tak­ing pat­ent re­form off its agenda in­def­in­itely, just a day be­fore it was sched­uled to vote on a com­prom­ise that stake­hold­ers be­lieved was at or ex­tremely near the fin­ish line.

The an­nounce­ment caught sev­er­al re­form ad­voc­ates off guard. Many be­lieved the com­mit­tee, which has delayed con­sid­er­a­tion sev­er­al times, was fi­nally ready to hold a vote on lan­guage Cornyn and Sen. Chuck Schu­mer had been work­ing on for weeks.

But just when op­tim­ism had reached new heights, everything col­lapsed.

“At 9 o’clock we were on track. By 11 we were off track.” said a lead­er of one pat­ent-re­form co­ali­tion.

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s top Re­pub­lic­an, also al­luded to Re­id’s in­volve­ment.

“I am sur­prised and dis­ap­poin­ted that the Sen­ate Demo­crat lead­er­ship is not will­ing to move for­ward on a bill that we’ve worked on so hard and were ready and ex­pect­ing to mark up to­mor­row,” Grass­ley said in a state­ment. “We put in a good faith ef­fort to get to this point, and it’s too bad that the bill is be­ing pulled from the agenda.”

An­oth­er lob­by­ist, while not­ing that Re­id played a ma­jor role in end­ing ne­go­ti­ations, also cau­tioned that a full agree­ment had not yet emerged.

“Ul­ti­mately, Leahy was not able to find the con­sensus,” the lob­by­ist said. “He had hoped that the de­sire to get a bill would trump the stake­hold­ers’ de­sire to get more pre­cisely what they wanted, but both sides de­cided that no bill at this time was bet­ter than what they con­sidered a ‘bad’ bill.”

Whatever the case, this much is clear: Pat­ent re­form is all but dead in Con­gress this year.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
7 REPUBLICANS ON STAGE
Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
1 days ago
THE LATEST

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.

Source:
×