June 12, 2019

Patent Reform: Congressional Hearings, Part III

Holland & Knight Section 101 Blog
Anthony J. Fuga

Tuesday, June 11, 2019, marked the third and final congressional hearing on the state of patent eligibility. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) began the hearing by referencing key issues that he heard, and made a point to respond to the ACLU's concern with allowing "companies to patent products and laws of nature – including our genes." Sen. Tillis attempted to dispel this by saying, "we're not going to touch your genes, ACLU. Problem solved . . . I'm pretty sure if it's not new, you can't patent it."

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) also had prepared comments and pointed the audience to an Op-Ed that he and Sen. Tillis wrote in The Hill. Like previous statements, both senators emphasized their concern that uncertainty in this area threatens American innovators. Sen. Coons specifically referenced uncertainty undermining innovators attempting to cure diseases, create better diagnostic testing, and develop artificial intelligence and quantum computing. He also stated that he does not want to let other countries leapfrog the United States in innovation. To close, Sen. Coons made the point that the draft bill was not final but was meant to facilitate discussion, and it accomplished that.

Sen. Tillis wrapped up the hearing, stating that after three days, 45 witnesses, and roughly 8 hours of testimony, he believes the bill needs refinement. For instance, he mentioned the need for further enhancements to the Section 112 language, along with revisions to the bill to confirm that business methods and generic computer claims cannot be weaponized against small business and entrepreneurs. He also mentioned a potential research exemption.

Lastly, Sen. Tillis stated that he wants to do this quickly. He hopes to revise the draft language and introduce a final bill soon after the July 4 recess. And he welcomes further dialog while finalizing the language.

If interested, you can watch the hearing here. Note: the hearing is nearly two hours long.

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