DC Dispatch

DC Dispatch - October 30, 2016

DC Dispatch

Senators Request Copyright Study

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Leahy (D-Vt.): joined together recently “to request the Copyright Office undertake a comprehensive study of the role copyright law plays in defining how software-enabled products can be used.” From Senator Grassley’s press release, “‘This is a complex field, and how we interact with software in our products touches on numerous important policy arenas, including intellectual property, privacy, consumer protection, public safety, cybersecurity, competition, and the evolution of the digital marketplace. Our laws should work together to promote the public interest in each of these areas, including the interests of consumers, creators, and technology companies wishing to engage in lawful behavior,’ Grassley and Leahy wrote in a letter to Maria Pallante, the Register of Copyrights. 
Grassley and Leahy … are requesting the study ‘in an effort to better understand and evaluate how our copyright laws enable creative expression, foster innovative business models, and allow legitimate uses in this software-enabled environment.’” Federal agency (in)ability to copyright was not on the list of topics to address. (Original Sources: Senator Grassley’s website),  

Senate (Again) Seeks Input for COMPETES Draft
(On STEM and tech transfer)

The Senate is currently working: on its version of the COMPETES reauthorization bill, and is “seeking further input from the science community on STEM education/workforce issues and research commercialization and technology transfer.” According to a summary by AIP, “Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) shared an update on the progress they have been making on a bipartisan effort to rewrite the America COMPETES bill [See DC Dispatches 7-10-15 and 8-7-15], … In the update, the senators include a follow-up request for information from the science community, asking for responses by email to a set of 10 questions in two focus areas. Saying that they have received sufficient input on the topic of basic research, the senators are seeking additional feedback on (1) STEM education and workforce issues and (2) research commercialization and technology transfer.” You can find the list of questions here. Unfortunately, for those interested in responding, they only gave a 10-day window and today is the due date (I only saw this very recently). I included this blurb mostly to show their status, and give some insight into what they are thinking about as they proceed with their COMPETES draft. Recall also that the House passed its version back in May, but not without great controversy (see my DC on TT column here). (Original Sources: Senate CST web site, AIP web site, FLC website)


Pending IP-Related Supreme Court Cases
(On damage award limits)

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear: two patent infringement cases that “could change the way judges and juries determine whether to award damages.” From an article in The Hill, “[T]he court consolidated a pair of cases from parties who argue the court’s current damages test is too rigid and conflicts with the plain language of the Patent Act.  They argue the Supreme Court struck down an equally rigid test last year, which determined when courts should force the loser of patent litigation to pay a winner’s attorney fees. 
The first case the court agreed to hear is Halo Electronics v. Pulse Electronics, which deals with small transformers in circuit boards that are included in computers and other products. Halo prevailed in a patent infringement suit and was awarded $1.5 million from a jury. The second case is Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer, which deals with a type of medical device that helps clean out wounds during surgery. Stryker prevailed in alleging infringement and was initially awarded $70 million in damages.” (Original Sources: The Hill online)

USPTO Signs MOUs with 3 Foreign IP Offices

The USPTO advanced: “international harmonization of [IP] processes in a series of meetings this week in Geneva, Switzerland.” From the press release, “[W]hile attending an annual governance meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization [Director] Lee signed three separate Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the European Patent Office (EPO), the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL). ‘These three [MOUs] mark a significant milestone of achievement in patent cooperation between our offices,’ said [Lee]. ‘They will promote consistency in practices and spur greater innovation.’” See the link for details of the three MOUs. (Original Sources: USPTO web site)

Hearings on DOE Nominations
(Office of Science nominee asked about tech transfer)

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recently held: a hearing “to consider … nominations for six top … positions at [DOE and DOI], including Cherry Murray to be Director of the DOE Office of Science.” From a summary in AIP, “[W]hen asked by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) about her support of technology transfer, in a reference to the recently released recommendations of the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories, Murray responded with a number of ideas to bolster technology transfer at the labs. Among them are incentivizing post-docs at the national laboratories to transition to start-ups and other small companies as well as the creation of umbrella agreements for small businesses in the communities surrounding the national laboratories. Heinrich encouraged Murray to consider creating ‘a front door outside the gate, literally a space with these labs, where small business can engage directly with the labs without going through all the steps that it takes to go behind the gate for the first time.’” A clear reference to his Microlabs bill (S. 784; now included in a more comprehensive Energy Lab bill – S. 2012). (Original Sources: AIP web site)

Update on Federal Travel Restrictions
(Not T2, but should be of interest to all government travel(ers))

In early October Congress sent: the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to the President for signature. The bill was vetoed on October 22 and is dead unless there is an attempt to override the veto. Along with the NDAA, however, was a 1,900 page conference report that conveyed a great deal of information – including language that “calls on the Department of Defense and National Nuclear Security Administration to revise conference attendance policies to ensure that federal scientists under their purview are given the opportunity to attend science and technology conferences. The report also recommends that laboratory and test center directors be given the authority to approve conference attendance.” From a summary by AIP, they highlight report language stating “‘[T]he [House and Senate] conferees note with concern that since the Departments of Defense and Energy have implemented updated conference policies, in response to requirements from the Office of Management and Budget, attendance at science and technology conferences by department personnel has reduced dramatically.  … The report highlights that such a drop in attendance risks a decline in the quality of scientific research, difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified scientists and engineers, and a diminished leadership role for the two departments within the global science and technology community. The report also notes that the new departmental policies are not meeting the needs of personnel requesting approval to travel to conferences. … In response to these findings and concerns, the conferees direct the Secretaries of Defense and Energy to revise current policies within the Department of Defense and National Nuclear Security Administration, respectively, whereby requests for scientific conference attendance are adjudicated within one month, and approvals are granted as appropriate within one month.’” Not clear what weight this will carry given the veto, but clearly Congress is concerned about agency personnel travel restrictions. (Original Sources: AIP website)


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.

Contact:Gary K. Jones, FLC DC Representative, gkjones.ctr@federallabs.org

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