Senate Judiciary Hearings Start Next Week

The Senate Judiciary Committee will conduct back-to-back hearings next Tuesday and Wednesday entitled “The State of Patent Eligibility in America. The marathon fact-finding hearings come on the heels of the proposed 101 framework released last week. Each of the hearings will include three panels of five speakers.

Judging on the lineups for next week, so far the deck is plainly stacked pro-reform.

The hearings kick off on Tuesday with former Chief Judge of the CAFC Paul Michel, and former USPTO Directors David Kappos and Q. Todd Dickinson, all of which are plainly pro-reform. Two academics are also included on the first Tuesday panel, only one of which can be characterized as anti-reform. I wouldn’t expect a dissenting voice here to in any way outshine the views of the former officials.

The second Tuesday panel includes Robert Armitage (formerly of Eli Lilly) and Mark Lemley (Stanford), both of which are plainly pro-reform as is another academic and private practice attorney on the panel. An attorney from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) — obviously, anti reform — is also included on this panel, but again, the predominant voices here are pro-reform.

The last Tuesday panel includes a collection of professors and policy fellows that are also predominantly pro-reform.

On Wednesday the bar associations lead off on the first panel. An industry group is included that is anti-reform, but that voice will be offset by the unanimity of all bar associations seeking change.

The second Wednesday panel will include the voice of small inventors (pro-reform) and include Phil Johnson (formerly Johnson & Johnson). While there is a software spokesman that will be anti-reform, the predominant view is once again pro-reform.

Finally, the last Wednesday panel will include multiple voices from Bio/Pharma, obviously pro-reform.

So, on one the pro-reform side of the ledger, you have: former Chief CAFC Judge, two former USPTO Directors, all bar organizations, Bio/Pharma, small inventors, and most academics. On the other, you have a handful of industry organizations (viewed as simply biased in favor of weaker patents) and an academic or two.

Perhaps Tech is looking to storm into the last hearing on June 11th guns blazing, after all positions are laid out. But, even so, the writing is already on the wall here. These hearings are fast-tracked, and the resulting legislation will be introduced very quickly thereafter.

At present, Big Tech is sitting on a very weak hand and momentum is quickly building against it.