Fall is always a busy time on Capitol Hill. Members usually wait for this time of year to consider the most controversial and thorny issues like appropriation bills to keep the government open and tax legislation that expires at the end of the year. Deals are made and legislators look for any opening to sneak through supposed non-controversial legislation without much debate or fanfare.
Add to this yearly spectacle the fact that House Republicans are in the midst of a leadership shakeup with Speaker Boehner having announced his resignation and retirement at the end of October and the GOP presidential primary heating up, and one could see how there might be enough distraction for members to engage in all sorts of shenanigans.
In this case, it’s especially important for conservatives to be on guard for attempts to push through so-called “patent reform.” In recent years, some in the Republican leadership have joined with the Obama administration to advance legislation aimed at reforming the patent system that is engrained in our Constitution. Supporters have claimed that it targets so-called patent trolls and rein in out of control patent lawsuits. In reality, these overhaul proposals would target all patent holders, not a targeted approach to address abusive behavior by trolls (which many support). In addition, patent lawsuits are actually declining according to a number of studies.
Some congressional leaders have said that the Innovation Act (H.R. 9) and the Patent Act (S. 1137) may be considered. Unlike in recent years, however, grassroots conservatives will continue to fight any measures, like these two bills, that undermine America’s innovation advantage.
Leading conservatives in Congress, like Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Tom Massie, Senator Ted Cruz and many others have expressed their reservation for this approach and saying it goes too far to undermine the rights of legitimate patent holders.
Recently, the Conservative Action Project, a coalition of conservative grassroots leaders of which I am a member of released a “Memo for the Movement” stating our unequivocal opposition to any legislation that would undermine intellectual property rights and destroy the strong patent protections that make America envied by the world.
The memo was signed by such conservative luminaries as former Attorney General Ed Meese, Phyllis Schlafly, and the leaders of key grassroots organizations such as Club for Growth, Tea Party Patriots, and For America. The memo stated, “Strong patent protections have set the United States apart from nations like China and India, among others, and have been critical to the creation of wealth and jobs and to the US’s role in the world. For that reason, Conservatives should be wary when elected officials start talking about reforming the patent system. Certainly, some targeted changes may be warranted on occasion, but, as we have seen time and again, the leadership in Washington thinks every problem, large or small needs a “comprehensive” reform and overhaul. Obamacare and Dodd-Frank are just a couple of examples.
Republicans on Capitol Hill will not be able to sneak through harmful legislation that benefits President Obama’s cronies in Silicon Valley. Why? Because conservatives are united in saying no to any big government fixes from Washington.
When the leaders of groups like the American Conservative Union, Heritage Action, Club for Growth and Eagle Forum have announced opposition to this bill and said they will be paying attention to how members vote, it’s time for Capitol Hill to take notice. We will vigorously oppose any efforts to pass legislation that would hurt long-term economic growth and destroy rights enshrined in our Constitution.
In the backdrop of this debate, China’s President Xi Jinping was invited to the White House for a state visit. His visit received all the pomp and circumstance one would expect to be given to a close ally, not a nation that was linked to the largest data security breach in American security.
But what message was sent? China can compromise the personal information of millions of government employees past and present and we invite their president for a photo up at the White House? And now we want to pass legislation that would make our intellectual property regime as worthless as China’s because why? We must reject any attempt to pass patent legislation that China can only dream of. We must send a message to inventors here and to the world that American will continue to lead the world in the protection of Intellectual Property
As Congress faces a busy fall, they should understand that big Washington patent overhaul will be met with strong opposition by a united grassroots conservative movement. The last thing we want to see is another giant Washington “fix” for our cherished American innovation sector.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union, and on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.