Clinton Backs Targeted Patent Law Changes

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By Joseph Marks

June 28— Hillary Clinton pledged June 28 to enact a slate of intellectual property proposals if elected president, but stopped short of endorsing a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. patent system.

The presumptive Democratic nominee supports reining in venue shopping by patent litigators, requiring specific allegations when patent holders accuse each other of infringing and making litigants disclose the real beneficiary of any legal victory or settlement, according to a fact sheet from the campaign.

The proposals are all parts of comprehensive patent legislation in the House and Senate or have been introduced as standalone bills.

Clinton also supports legislation to ensure that the Patent and Trademark Office gets to keep all the fees it collects, and invest any fees beyond what Congress has budgeted into “new technologies, personnel, and training,” according to the fact sheet. Currently, the office needs approval from congressional appropriators to spend excess funds.

The fact sheet also advocates preparing the office to review patents faster and clear a backlog of pending applications.

Clinton listed the proposals in a briefing on technology and innovation that also includes sections on promoting science, technology, engineering and math education; making technology transfer between the government and private sector easier; and improving internet access in rural areas, among other topics.

Part of a Broader Tech Agenda

Clinton touted the broader set of proposals in an appearance at a Denver tech incubator June 28 but didn’t mention the intellectual property elements.

Clinton believes the U.S. copyright system “has languished for many decades, and is in need of administrative reform to maximize its benefits in the digital age,” according to the fact sheet. It advocates broadening access to “orphan works,” for which the copyright owner isn’t known or can’t be found, and promoting open licensing of copyrighted material created with the help of federal grant funding in education, science and other fields.

The policy brief was quickly applauded by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech industry group that counts Google Inc., Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. among its members.

“This is the platform of a candidate who can be trusted to grow the economy,” CCIA President Ed Black said in a statement.

Beth Provenzano, a vice president with the National Retail Federation and co-chair of the group United for Patent Reform, called the proposals “smart steps that will help deprive patent trolls of the tools they use to extort millions of dollars from small American businesses every day.”

Patent trolls is a derisive term for organizations and individuals that accrue patents to demand licensing fees from operating companies rather than to manufacture their own products. United for Patent Reform's members include Amazon, Google and Cisco Systems, Inc. The group's members are often defendants sued by patent holders in licensing cases, rather than plaintiffs.

'Targeted' Reforms

Brian Pomper, executive director of the Innovation Alliance, a pro-patent owner group, praised the Clinton for endorsing limited changes to the patent system rather than backing comprehensive reform bills in the House and the Senate that the group said “would weaken patent rights for all American inventors.”

The House’s version of comprehensive reform is the Innovation Act. The Senate version is the Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship Act, or PATENT Act.

The Clinton campaign has been soliciting feedback on changes to the patent and copyright systems and other technology and innovation topics for several months, said Todd Dickinson, a former Patent and Trademark Office director.

Dickinson is advising the Clinton campaign on IP issues, but stressed he was not speaking on the campaign’s behalf.

He described changes advocated by the briefing as having broad support in Congress, though each has its share of opponents.

“Politics is the art of the possible, and these are areas where consensus can be reached and ought to be focused on,” he said. “The fact that they’re doing this is important and it should suggest to the IP community that the campaign—and, presumably, if she’s elected, her administration—will take IP seriously.”

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at

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