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Public Statements

America Invents Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WATT. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding time.

As the gentlewoman has indicated, I am the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property of Judiciary, and I too supported reporting the bill favorably to the House floor. The problem is that the bill we may end up debating is not the bill that we reported favorably from the Judiciary Committee, and there are reasons for that. I understand what those reasons are, but if the amendment that is being offered as the manager's amendment passes, it will put us in a position where substantial people who supported the bill will be unable to do so.

Here is the equation. One of the primary purposes for which there was a strong alliance of people and groups and interests supporting patent reform was that in the past fees that have been paid to the Patent and Trademark Office have gone through the appropriations process, and over the last 10 years almost $800,000 of those fees have been diverted to other purposes, other than the use of the Patent and Trademark Office. The effect of that is that there has been a hidden tax on innovation in our country.

The United States Senate passed a bill that would end that diversion. They passed it by a vote of 85-4. We passed a bill out of our Judiciary Committee that would end that diversion, and all of a sudden we come to the floor and a manager's amendment is being offered that, if it is not defeated, will undermine that unifying thing that has held the groups together and allowed people to support the bill. So I have to be in a position where I am strongly opposing the manager's amendment to this bill.

I don't think the groups out there support it. It is not often that I come to the floor and say I am speaking for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce would like for the diversion of fees to stop.

It's not often that I come to the floor and say that I'm speaking, I think, for the United States Senate. They've already passed a bill that would stop the diversion of fees. It's not often that I come to the floor standing up for the bill that came out of our committee against forces that have taken it over and are putting forward a manager's amendment that we simply cannot support.

Now, I understand how we got here. The appropriators would like to continue to control the process. They said, Well, we are going to object to this, and we will raise a point of order. And they came up with language that professes to solve the problem. The problem is that that raised another point of order because the Congressional Budget Office said, Well, if you do it that way, you are going to put yourself in a situation where we have to score this bill in a different way. So then the leadership on the chairman's side said, Okay, well, we can waive that rule. And I'm saying, Well, if you can waive the rule, you are the people who have been so much worried about the deficit, if you can waive the rule that gets around worrying about the deficit, why couldn't you waive the rule that allows us to take up the bill that we passed out of committee?

So I need to be addressing my Republican colleagues here. If they want to start this process over, the way to start the process over is to vote against the manager's amendment. That's the simple way to do it. At that point we can get back, hopefully, to a bill that does clearly not divert fees and that the whole population of supporters has said we would support.

That's where I am, Mr. Chairman. I don't want to belabor this. I don't want to take away time from other people who want to speak. But it's not the bill itself that came out of committee that's the problem. If we pass the manager's amendment, we've got a problem here. We could tinker around the edges of the bill that came out of the committee, and we could solve the minor concerns that we've got there. But there's no way to tinker around the edges of this diversion issue. Either you support diversion of money, or you don't support diversion of money.

I think it's time for us to stop this hidden tax that we have imposed on innovation in this country. The only way to do that is to defeat the manager's amendment.

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Mr. WATT. I yield myself the balance of my time.

Let me first say I agree with Mr. Sensenbrenner. The Rules Committee says that this is a technical amendment, that it would make technical edits and a few necessary changes to more substantive issues. This is a very substantive manager's amendment; there is no question about that.

There are many good parts to this bill, and a broad coalition of people supported the bill which was reported out of committee. But the one and only necessary part of the bill is the ability to give the Patent and Trademark Office its full funding. That was the whole purpose for which we started off this process.

This whole reform process was conceived to address poor-quality patents and to reduce the backlog of patent applications, which now exceeds a 700,000 backlog of patent applications. And the reason it exceeds 700,000 is because the Patent and Trademark Office has not had the money because their fees that they have been charging have been diverted to the general fund. Without a clear path to access its own collection of fees, the PTO cannot properly plan or implement the other changes in the bill and fulfill its primary function of reducing the backlog and examining patent applications.

The compromise that this manager's amendment proposes has been described by a patent news blog as, it says, It's still Lucy--that's the appropriators--holding the football that it will never let Charlie Brown have. That's really what we see here.

This is a mirage, a promise that they are going to do something that, if they just did it in the bill the way we reported the bill out of the committee, you wouldn't need this subterfuge. There is no reason to be doing this. The Senate reported it out clean, no diversion, 95-4 they voted it out of the Senate.

I don't even know why we're here debating this at this point. If we believe that the one primary purpose of patent reform is to deal with the fee diversion, then we need to deal with that first, and that's exactly what we did in the Judiciary Committee.

I don't know why I'm here defending what we, on a broad, bipartisan basis, reported out of our committee. It ought to be the chairman of the committee that's defending what we reported out of the committee. Yet we are here, instead of defending what we reported out of the committee, the manager's amendment waters it down and makes it ineffective, and that's not what we should be doing here.

Now they said they got these letters of support, but the letters came supporting what came out of the committee, not the manager's amendment. The manager's amendment is going to destroy what came out of the committee. It is inconsistent with what came out of the committee.

So we've got to defeat the manager's amendment and go back to the bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee, and that's what I'm advocating.

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