Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Taking Long View on Patent Fight Pays Off

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Sen. Tom Coburn will look to block the patent reform bill over a funding issue, clouding the legislation’s future.

The reliance on staff is particularly apparent in how the amendment was sold to lawmakers. Although the offices for conservatives who voted for it, such as Bachmann and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), did not return requests for comment, other supporters of the measure said they voted for the bill because it makes technical corrections to the law and creates a common set of definitions.

“By eliminating confusion regarding the deadline for patent term extension applications, this amendment provides the certainty necessary to encourage costly investments in lifesaving medical research,” Conyers said in a floor statement before the vote.

Paul spokeswoman Rachel Mills said, “It did not allocate money to anyone; therefore, it was not an earmark,” and she noted that Paul ultimately voted against the final bill.

Bachmann and Paul are running for the GOP presidential nomination. Pence, a former Republican Study Committee chairman, is running for governor of Indiana.

Backers of the amendment argued that it would not just apply to MDCO, and by default WilmerHale, because it would permanently change the language in the rule.

There have been almost no instances of patent extensions being rejected because they missed the deadline, though. From 1984 to 2006, the PTO processed 700 extensions, and only four — including MDCO’s — were denied because they missed the deadline, according to Congressional testimony by PTO officials.

Still, lobbying Congress on such detailed matters is rarely something that requires heavy lifting on the Member level and can be accomplished by working staff over a period of time, Ellis said.

“A lot of this [is] at a level of minutia that is at a level where lawmakers aren’t usually involved,” he added.

Unfortunately for Members, their reliance on staff can often lead to instances such as this, where Congress has passed what amounts to a private bill for two companies, Ellis contended.

“I don’t have a lot of sympathy. You need to do your homework. ... You should have done your due diligence,” he said.

But despite the years and expense of lobbying on MDCO’s part, the legislation, a version of which has passed the Senate and is supported by the Obama administration, is still not out of the woods.

Senate GOP aides said Tuesday that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has placed a hold on the bill because of an unrelated funding issue, and that could doom the legislation. A Coburn spokesman declined to comment on the issue. But Coburn’s opposition is likely rooted in a standoff between appropriators and authorizers over PTO fees. Coburn has consistently opposed the fee provisions in the bill, insisting that the PTO be given full control over how it spends the fees that it collects.

House appropriators, however, would retain some control over the PTO under the House bill.

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