FLC News

Legislation From the 114th Congress - Part II


Greetings from D.C. Although I just wrote a column on legislation introduced early in the 114th Congress that may be of interest to our members, there’s been more activity since that I wanted to bring to your attention.

On April 29, Senator Grassley (R-IA) introduced the PATENT Act (S. 1137), which joins the STRONG Patents Act (S. 632) in the Senate and the Innovation Act (H.R. 9) in the House as several of the more salient proposals on intellectual property (IP) and patent reform issues introduced to date (both highlighted in the April column). As summarized by Patently-O, “[T]he PATENT Act is a revised version of prior proposed legislation that addresses some of the most severe criticisms of those proposals. It’s also well situated to move forward, as it’s supported by leaders from both parties.” This was demonstrated when the bill passed out of committee on June 4.

On May 7, Senator Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the National Laboratory Technology Maturation Act (S. 1259), designed “to launch a new National Laboratory Technology Maturation Program (NLTMP) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to facilitate successful commercialization of laboratory-developed technologies and boost regional technology-driven economic impacts.” Like the Microlab Technology Commercialization Act (S. 784) introduced in March (also highlighted in the April column), this bill is a revised version of a bill introduced late in the last session. As noted in the Senator’s press release, “[Under the NLTMP], small businesses with licensed technology from a national laboratory could apply for a voucher for up to $250,000 to purchase assistance from lab scientists and engineers to mature the technology and further develop products and services until they are market-ready or sufficiently developed to attract private investment.”

On May 20, the House passed multiple bills related to science and technology, including H.R. 1158 (DOE Lab Modernization and Technology Act) and H.R 1162 (Science Prize Competition Act), both introduced recently and highlighted in the April column.

On the same day, the House also passed its version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1806), although not without controversy. The bill originated in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, where the Chair noted “[this bill] prioritizes basic research and development while staying within the caps set by the Budget Control Act. …Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have you believe that the only way you can be pro-science is to spend more taxpayer money than the Budget Control Act allows.” On the other side of the aisle, the ranking member noted, “[this bill] abandons the legacy of COMPETES by flat-funding R&D investments. It abandons that legacy by slashing funding for the very ARPA-E program envisioned by the Augustine Committee. It abandons that legacy by politicizing the scientific grant making process and pitting different research disciplines against one another. I want to be clear about what it is that the Majority is abandoning. They are abandoning our future.”

Meanwhile, also on the same day, Senator Alexander (R-TN) and a bipartisan collection of co-sponsors introduced the Energy Title of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (S. 1398), focused primarily on the energy component of America COMPETES. As described in the press release, this Senate proposal would: 1) authorize a four-percent increase in funding each year for basic energy research, and reauthorize for five years the DOE’s Office of Science and ARPA-E; 2) eliminate six DOE programs that were never fully implemented,and reform five other DOE programs; and 3) attract and keep the country’s most talented scientists through competitive grant programs funded through DOE.

The next steps are for some meeting of the minds (within/between the Senate and House) on the various patent reform proposals (no easy task), a more complete Senate version of America COMPETES to eventually conference with the House version (also complicated given the partisan foundation of the House bill), Senate bills to go with the multiple House S&T bills recently passed (e.g., on prize competitions), as well as possible movement on the various Senate DOE-centric bills. No doubt there are other proposals on the table with some implications—at least on the margins—for our community. We’ll keep an eye out.

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