WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A group of leading conservatives, in a memo released last week, is calling on fellow conservative groups and leaders to stand up for patent rights and reject current proposed patent reforms.
Among those who signed the so-called “Memo for the Movement,” sent out by the Conservative Action Project Friday: former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, who served under President Ronald Reagan; CAP Chairwoman Becky Norton Dunlop, a former White House advisor to Reagan; David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth; Phyllis Schlafly, the founder, chairwoman and CEO of Eagle Forum; and Ken Cuccinelli, former Virginia Attorney General, a registered patent attorney and president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee.
The two-page memo, which a spokesman for the group said is being distributed among other conservatives, is a call to arms.
“Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of intellectual property by writing patent protections into the Constitution -- Article 1, Section 8. They understood that the right to own your ideas was important to economic liberty,” CAP wrote. “As a result of this tradition, and a long history of defending those rights, the U.S. has led the world in invention and innovation.”
It continued, “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 U.S.’s role in the world.
“For that reason, conservatives should be wary when elected officials start talking about reforming the patent system.”
Some “targeted” changes may be warranted “on occasion,” CAP admitted, but not a “comprehensive” reform and overhaul.
“Recently proposed legislation in the House -- the Innovation Act -- and in the Senate -- the PATENT Act -- fall into this category,” the conservative group wrote in its memo. “They are sweeping legislative overhauls that will undermine many of the current protections of our patent system, while claiming to address specific problems -- like patent trolls.
“As we have seen the proliferation of crony corruption throughout Washington, these bills are just the latest example.”
In July, a number of conservative groups took out ads aimed at stamping out the House’s Innovation Act, considered one of the more aggressive patent reform bills floating through Congress.
The groups -- the American Conservative Union, Club for Growth and Eagle Forum -- argue that the Innovation Act, or H.R. 9, will harm American inventors and small businesses while giving China a boost in the global marketplace.
The full-page ads were featured in both The Washington Post and The Washington Times, ahead of an expected U.S. House vote.
But federal lawmakers decided to hit the brakes on the patent reform bill, delaying a vote until September, following this month’s recess.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte -- the bill’s lead author -- has said he would use the extra time to “grow the supporters list even more.” He explained that some members still had concerns with the legislation.
Goodlatte, R-Va., faced a similar situation during the markup process. After delaying the markup and making various tweaks to the bill, it finally passed the House Judiciary Committee in June.
Pharmaceutical makers, biotechnology industries, universities, venture capitalists and patent licensors have continued to rail against the legislation, reintroduced by Goodlatte in February.
They contend H.R. 9 would dramatically weaken intellectual property rights and undermine the patent system.
CAP, in its memo, contends the bills are the result of lobbying by large and powerful companies like Google.
“The legislation would be great for their bottom line as it could drive down the cost of acquiring patents for them,” the group wrote. “Unfortunately, it would do so at the cost of small inventors who don’t have the same lobbying power.
“Most importantly it would also help those companies, at the expense of our cherished patent rights.”
CAP argues that some changes already have been made to the patent system, with the America Invents Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011 and a number of U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have addressed some of the issues patent reform supporters claim to be concerned over.
“Changes already taking place have raised the bar for bringing suits and have made it easier for judges to shift costs to those who bring frivolous lawsuits,” the group wrote.
“Give the current reforms time to take effect and consider targeted and minimal reforms if necessary.”
The current approach, CAP argues, would do “much more harm than good,” effectively surrendering the nation’s competitive advantage.
The group, founded by Meese and chaired by Dunlop, includes the CEOs of more than 100 organizations representing all major elements of the conservative movement -- economic, social and national security.
From time to time, it issues a “Memo for the Movement” that expresses a position shared by the signatories and then goes out to their members and activists.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.