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House Science and Judiciary Committee Chairs Set Priorities for 115th Congress 

Greetings from D.C.  As is common practice at the beginning of a new congressional session, committee chairs often lay out their agenda in broad strokes for the coming term.  Two House committees of particular importance to the tech transfer community—the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the House Committee on the Judiciary—have now provided the general outline to their oversight and legislative focus for the next two years.

Arguably one of the more important House committees for the FLC community is the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (chaired by Lamar Smith, R-TX-21st), which has direct oversight responsibilities for technology transfer, among many other relevant topical areas.  Chairman Smith recently announced his Committee’s priorities for the 115th Congress.  His statement, and the accompanying list, makes clear where the Committee will be focusing its attention. 

In a press release, Chairman Smith notes that “[A]n active two years lay ahead of us as we have important work to do in the new Congress.  The Science Committee plans to create transparent environmental policies based on sound science and focused on innovation rather than regulation.  The committee will work to make sure every agency research dollar spent works for the taxpayers who fund them.  We’ll work to re-stake America’s leadership in STEM concentrations by crafting critical science education initiatives, and we will conduct rigorous oversight of cybersecurity standards and breaches at federal agencies to ensure all Americans’ private information is secure.  Rebalancing NASA’s portfolio and setting course for its future successes will also be a key priority this Congress.”  He provides some meat on the bones in the list that follows.

Tech transfer falls under the specific responsibilities of the Research and Technology Subcommittee chaired by Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10th).  While no direct mention about tech transfer is made in the brief list of priorities above, it’s not unusual that it’s not on the high visibility list.  However, if or when their attention does turn to tech transfer, the R&T Subcommittee will be the starting point.

Another committee with oversight over an area of broad implications and one of interest to the FLC community is the House Committee on the Judiciary. Chaired by Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6th), this committee has responsibility for a broad swath of topics, including intellectual property issues.  Chairman Goodlatte also recently released a statement indicating where his committee will turn its focus during the 115th Congress.  In a recent speech to the Federalist Society in D.C., he highlighted a number of issues his committee will address, including patent law and, more specifically, patent litigation. 

In his press release, Chairman Goodlatte noted, “[W]hile we must protect the ability of Americans to seek redress through the courts when they are truly damaged or injured, there are measures we can take to reduce the wasteful burden that truly frivolous lawsuits impose on American competitiveness.  Like excessive regulation, frivolous lawsuits are a drain on businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators, and hardworking Americans. We can and must do better.  Over the next Congress, the House Judiciary Committee plans to reform the litigation system by seeking to reduce frivolous lawsuits, making it harder for trial lawyers to game the system, and improving protections for consumers and small businesses.  We’ll also work on reforms to discourage abusive patent litigation and keep U.S. patent laws up to date.”

Patent law is the responsibility of the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee chaired by Darrell Issa (R-CA-49th).  Most patent legislation discussion in the House typically originates here.

These committees cover much more than just the items highlighted here, but by pointing to them directly as priority subjects for their respective committees, each chair makes clear where his, and therefore his committee’s, focus will be in the coming months.

Gary can be reached at gkjones.ctr@federallabs.org.

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