Just when it appeared that there would be no patent reform for yet another Congress, 25 senators have sent a letter to majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asking him to bring the Manager’s Amendment, S. 515, to the Senate floor for consideration “as soon as possible.”
Does this mean that the bill will be debated soon? Who knows. The letter certainly makes it more likely. Does it mean that all 25 senators support the bill and will vote for its passage? Not necessarily, although the letter is full of praise for the bill. It would seem a bit incongruous to sign such a letter and then vote against the bill the letter praises.
The following senators signed the letter:
- Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Judiciary Committee that passed the bill and primary sponsor of the bill;
- Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee;
- Herb Kohl (D-WI), member of the Judiciary Committee;
- Orrin Hatch (R-UT), member of the Judiciary Committee who voted against the bill in committee and original co-sponsor of the bill;
- Arlen Specter (D-PA), member of the Judiciary Committee and original co-sponsor of the bill;
- Jon Kyl (R-AZ), member of the Judiciary Committee who voted against the bill in committee;
- Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), member of the Judiciary Committee;
- Richard Lugar (R-IN);
- Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), member of the Judiciary Committee and original co-sponsor of the bill;
- Thad Cochran (R-MS);
- Edward Kaufman (D-DE), member of the Judiciary Committee and original co-sponsor of the bill;
- Christopher Bond (R-MO);
- Joseph Lieberman (I-CT);
- Sam Brownback (R-KS);
- Bill Nelson (D-FL);
- Richard Burr (R-NC);
- Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ);
- Roger Wicker (R-MS);
- Robert Menendez (D-NJ);
- George LeMieux (R-FL);
- Sherrod Brown (D-OH);
- Robert Casey (D-PA);
- Claire McCaskill (D-MO);
- Roland Burris (D-IL);
- Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), original co-sponsor of the bill.
Notably, original co-sponsors John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) did not sign the letter. Does this mean they no longer support the bill in its amended form?
Even if the bill does get to the Senate floor and even if it passes the Senate, it still has to be passed by the House. The House Judiciary Committee has not voted on the bill and seemed disinclined to do so last year.
So, back to the original question. Will we see patent reform this year in the 111th Congress? If we do, it will have to pass quickly with little or no significant debate. I realize that this is often the way it happens in politics, but this is not the way it should be done on a bill to significantly overhaul the patent system that could have an enormous impact on the economy.
Stay tuned . . .
Thanks to Hal Wegner for sending around the letter.