DC Dispatch

DC Dispatch - June 24, 2016

DC dispatch new

Senate Drops New COMPETEs Bill

(Includes tech transfer language)

Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) have released: a “successor to the America COMPETES Act - the primary legislative vehicle in recent years for setting policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as for setting some broader R&D and STEM education policy.” From a summary by AIP, “[T]he Senate bill has been anticipated since the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing last month after a series of three stakeholder roundtables in 2015 [See Dispatch 6-10-16]. The committee has decided to drop the COMPETES label altogether, instead calling the bill the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act [S. 3084] … Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), the chairman and ranking member of the Commerce Committee, are co-sponsors of the bill alongside Gardner and Peters. Unlike the House, the Senate took a bipartisan approach to drafting the bill, and so it unsurprisingly differs significantly from both the House COMPETES bill - which the chamber passed on a mostly party line vote last May - and an alternative bill put forth by House Democrats. …”

“The bill’s major sections largely match the topics of the three roundtables Gardner and Peters convened last year. Titles I and II deal with ‘maximizing basic research’ and ‘administrative and regulatory burden reduction’ - together, the focus of the first roundtable. Title III covers STEM education, the topic of the second. The last three titles deal with private sector engagement, manufacturing, innovation, and technology transfer—topics explored in the final roundtable.” 

See the initial bill language here. The tech transfer community will be most interested in Titles IV, V, and VI. Under Title IV (Leveraging the Private Sector) there are sections on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, and Prize Competitions authority; under Title V (Manufacturing) the focus is on the manufacturing extension program and other advanced manufacturing initiatives; and under Title VI (Innovation, Commercialization and Tech Transfer) there are sections on NSF’s I-Corps and their translational research projects grant program. Tech transfer is also mentioned in other places (e.g., NIST and their tech transfer reporting requirements are noted). 

See the Senate press release here. The bill is set for markup next week. Although the bill text and details have not yet been received by congress.gov, you can track the bill here in the future. (Original Sources: AIP web site, Senate CST Cmte web site, congress.gov web site


Competing Congressional Opinions on SBIR/STTR

(Differing views on whether to increase the set-asides)

Both the House and Senate Small Business Committees are: “championing legislation to increase the fraction of extramural R&D budgets that federal agencies must allocate to the [SBIR] and [STTR] grant programs. The proposals (H.R.4783 and S.2812) both cleared their respective committees following hearings [earlier this year]. However, as AIP reports, “[M]eanwhile, the House Science Committee held a hearing last week to allow more agency officials to weigh in on the effects of changes to the programs and to give members of the committee an opportunity to air their views. In an uncommon display of unity for a committee that has been marked by partisan debates in recent years, committee members from both parties expressed concerns that increasing the amount set aside for these programs could overly impact agencies’ grant programs focused on more basic research. …. Under current law, federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets of over $100 million must devote at least 3.2 percent of that budget to SBIR. For STTR, agencies with extramural R&D budgets of over $1 billion must devote at least 0.45 percent. … Under the House bill, the set-asides for SBIR and STTR would reach 4.5 percent and 0.6 percent by 2022, respectively. Under the Senate bill, the fractions would rise to 6 percent and 1 percent by 2028. … In contrast, members of the House Science Committee do not appear to share the desire to reauthorize the programs quickly and as proposed.” See more details on the hearing here. (Original Sources: AIP web site, House SST Cmte web site, congress.gov web site)


Recent Supreme Court IP-Related Decisions

Halo v. Pulse (Enhanced Damages)

From the blog Patently-O, “[T]he Supreme Court today [June 13] issued an important unanimous decision in Halo v. Pulse – vacating the Federal Circuit’s rigid limits to enhanced damages in patent cases.  The decision rejects the dual objective/subjective test of Seagate as ‘inconsistent’ with the statutory language of 35 U.S.C. §284.  Rather, the court indicated that district courts have discretion to award enhanced damages where appropriate ‘as a sanction for egregious infringement behavior’ and that those awards will be reviewed with deference on appeal.  Although the district courts are given discretion, the opinion here makes clear that enhanced damages should not be awarded in ‘garden-variety cases.’” (Original Sources: Patently-O blog)

Cuozzo v. Lee (Inter Partes review and claim construction)

From the blog Patently-O, the court “upheld the AIA provision barring challenges to the Patent Office’s decision to institute inter partes review. 35 U. S. C. §314(d).  In addition, Justice Breyer’s majority opinion approved of the Patent Office’s approach of applying the broadest reasonable construction (BRI) standard to interpret patent claims – finding it a ‘reasonable exercise of the rulemaking authority that Congress delegated to the Patent Office.’ The Court was unanimous as to the BRI standard however, Justices Alito and Sotomayor dissented from the no-appeal ruling – they would have interpreted the statute as limiting interlocutory appeals but still allowing review of the decision to institute within the context of an appellate review of the PTO’s final decision on the merits.” (Original Sources: Patently-O blog)

New from USPTO

Nominations Sought for Advisory Committees

The USPTO is seeking: nominations “to fill upcoming vacancies for the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) and the Trademark Public Advisory Committee (TPAC).” From the Federal Register Notice, “[T]he Public Advisory Committees are each composed of nine (9) voting members who are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce and serve at the pleasure of the Secretary for three-year terms. Members are eligible for reappointment for a second consecutive three-year term. The Public Advisory Committee members must be citizens of the United States and are chosen to represent the interests of diverse users of the United States Patent and Trademark Office with respect to patents, in the case of the [PPAC], and with respect to trademarks, in the case of the TPAC.” Nominations due by July 25. (Original Sources: Federal Register web site)

USPTO Announces New Patent-Related Studies

The USPTO has announced: the topics of upcoming patent quality studies as identified via their Case Studies Pilot established last year. From the press release, “[T]his pilot is one of several programs that is part of our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI). We defined a USPTO case study as an in-depth examination of applications with respect to a single issue to provide a better understanding of the quality of our work products. Specifically, we use case studies to assist us in formulating best practices to enhance patent quality by improving our patent work products and examination processes, and to identify areas where further examiner training may be needed.” See the link for the 6 topics selected for the pilot. (Original Sources: USPTO web site)

New From NSF

Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: Data Update provides “the latest information about the participation of these groups in S&E higher education and employment. This data update provides new statistics on U.S. demographics; freshman intentions to major in S&E fields; enrollment status and primary source of support for S&E graduate students; and S&E doctorate recipients, by field, sex, race or ethnicity, disability status, primary source of support, baccalaureate origin, and postgraduate plans.” (Original Sources: NSF web site)

Trends in the Relationship between U.S. Academic Scientific Publication Output and Funding and Personnel Inputs: 1988–2011 notes “the two decades spanning 1988–2011 evidenced considerable growth in funding for academic research and development in science and engineering (S&E), and smaller growth in the number of academic researchers and in the number of academic scientific publications. After adjustment for inflation, expenditures for academic R&D in S&E almost tripled during this period, rising from $17.3 billion to $49.7 billion. Throughout most of this period, funding for academic R&D in S&E grew steadily, with rapid increases from the late 1990s until around 2005 and slower growth since then. There was also steady but slower growth in the number of U.S.-trained academic researchers and in the number of annual academic sector publications.” (Original Sources; NSF web site)


Note: The DC Dispatch is a periodic update of selected items of interest to the FLC and technology transfer community -- i.e., current legislation, trends, reports, policy and other developments potentially affecting technology transfer or related activities -- designed to keep the community informed of relevant issues on a timely basis. Information is gleaned directly from a variety of sources (newsletters, email alerts, web sites, direct participation at events from the FLC DC Representative’s office, etc.) -- with original sources, contacts and links provided.

DC Dispatch