K Street Files: Patent Push

Posted February 24, 2009 at 6:32pm

Correction Appended

The Coalition for Patent Fairness is upping the ante, hiring a new public relations team and reinvigorating its lobbying efforts to breathe life into the long-standing patent reform debate.

[IMGCAP(1)]The coalition brought on BGR Public Relations in December to push its message on Capitol Hill and delivered a letter Tuesday to Senators, House leadership and the House Judiciary Committee, urging Congress to enact comprehensive patent reform this year.

The coalition is pushing for changes to current patent law that would bring it more in line with the rest of the world, in particular moving to a first-to-file system rather than a first-to-invent system in determining who becomes a patent holder.

The coalition is composed of 15-member technology companies, including Google, Apple and Microsoft, but the letter was also signed by 93 other companies and trade associations, ranging from Citigroup and eBay to the Financial Services Roundtable and Business Software Alliance.

The coalition expects Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to take action soon.

Patent reform stalled in the Senate last year amid opposition from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and groups such as the Biotechnology Industry Organization over how patent infringement damages would be handled.

“We expect to have more votes in the Senate this year, and are encouraged that President Obama’s technology agenda singles out patent reform as a key to improving innovation,” coalition spokesman David DiMartino said.

Calling ‘Joe the Plumber.’ The business community is coming for you.

The Business Industry Political Action Committee declared the current generation of voters the “fix-it generation” at a press briefing Tuesday and said the business community is best positioned to reach them.

“We believe the tipping point of business political participation is at hand,” said Greg Casey, the business group’s president and chief executive officer, in releasing the 2009-2010 Outline for Prosperity, the group’s annual agenda for political action.

Grass-roots activities among the business community will surpass those of organized labor for the first time in 2010, Casey predicted, undoubtedly shaking up a few Congressional races and upping the ante for their neighbors across the street, the AFL-CIO.

Casey said the technology revolution sparked by the Obama campaign opens the door for the business community to use its natural affinity to reach employees with political information when, where and how they want it.

A post-election survey of BIPAC member company employees found the credibility of employers as sources of political information has increased and will continue to grow in shaky economic times as employees turn to their employers for reliable information.

“The fix-it revolution is coming,” he said. “The issues of primary importance to voters today are our issues.”

Circling the Wagons. A prominent credit agency is staffing up downtown to play defense on Capitol Hill as the housing sector continues to nose-dive.

New York-based Standard & Poor’s, which is owned by McGraw-Hill Cos. Inc., last month hired former Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee lawyer Doug Nappi, one half of the firm Nappi and Hoppe.

McGraw-Hill spokesman Damon Leavell declined to discuss specifics of the company’s lobbying strategy, other than that the firm is “going to work on financial services legislation dealing with credit rating agencies.” Leavell also confirmed that, to date, the credit ratings agency had been using the parent company’s in-house team.

Popular ratings firm Moody’s also contracts with an outside firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, an arrangement dating back to 2002, according to disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of the Senate. A.M. Best, another ratings firm, terminated its contract with Wiley Rein last spring, Senate filings show, and has not hired a new firm.

Waiting for a Miracle. The Innocence Project, a Yeshiva University-affiliated group that helps free wrongfully convicted prisoners, will soon be knocking on lawmakers’ doors, toting new National Science Foundation research that suggests “serious deficiencies in the nation’s forensic science system.”

“We could get very involved,” the nonprofit group’s policy director, Stephen Saloom, said this week.

Executives from the group registered as federal lobbyists on Feb. 17, according to Senate lobbying records.

Saloom said the group also plans to press lawmakers on the reauthorization of 2004’s Justice for All Act, which included protections for crime victims and improvements to the fragmented — and backlogged — DNA sample database, according to an online description by the federal Office for Victims of Crime.

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Correction: Feb. 27, 2009

The article incorrectly reported that Standard & Poor’s uses Pyle & Associates for its outside counsel. It does not.