The Senate Judiciary Committee has reinstated its subcommittee dedicated to addressing intellectual property issues facing U.S. innovators.
Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) will sit atop the Senate Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee as chairman and ranking member, respectively, Tillis said in a Feb. 7 statement.
The subcommittee could bring a renewed focus on intellectual property issues to the Senate. Its jurisdiction includes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, and federal government functions related to patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.
The revived panel “will create a bit more bandwidth on the Senate side for looking at IP issues, certainly not just oversight of the PTO but substantive IP issues as well,” Dana Colarulli, director of the PTO’s office of governmental affairs, said at the Patent Public Advisory Committee’s quarterly meeting.
Several U.S. court decisions in recent years have left technology and pharmaceutical companies unsure of whether their inventions are patentable under federal law. Tillis and Coons are talking with tech and pharmaceutical industry stakeholders about potential legislation to rework the definition of patent eligibility.
The two lawmakers hosted a closed-door meeting in December on the subject attended by Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc., Ericsson Inc., pharmaceutical industry group PhRMA, the IP Owner’s Association, and the American IP Law Association (AIPLA) representatives, among others. A second meeting is scheduled Feb. 14.
“In recent years, our country has been faced with a number of challenges in our intellectual property system, from rampant theft from state actors like China, to confusion among innovators and inventors about what is even patentable,” Tillis said in his statement. “These issues are causing our nation’s economy to lose billions of dollars annually and threaten our country’s long-term technological dominance.”
The subcommittee was dissolved in 2007 temporarily when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) took up intellectual property issues at the full committee level after he was named Senate Judiciary chairman.
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