Blog Stirs Controversy on Hill, K Street With Quotes From Senate Aide

Posted October 28, 2009 at 5:25pm

A blog post reporting comments made by a senior Republican staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee is creating a firestorm on K Street and Capitol Hill. The staffer, according to the blog, criticized earlier attempts at passing patent reform and took the high-tech industry to task for trying to buy its way into passing legislation.Joseph Matal, Republican general counsel on the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that the current version of the patent reform bill is a compromise where “most of the noxious provisions were removed entirely or made inoffensive— and pointed his finger at the high-tech industry for supporting a “terrible bill— almost two years ago, according to a blog post on Patent Docs, which is written Chicago-based patent attorney Kevin Noonan.Matal was speaking before industry stakeholders at the IP Counsels Committee Conference hosted by the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington, D.C.Matal’s boss is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. Sessions Communications Director Stephen Boyd said he was skeptical of the blog posting’s accuracy.“Joe is a skilled lawyer and a valued staffer on patent issues,— Boyd said. “I’m skeptical that the blog accurately represents Joe’s comments in their proper context. Regardless, Joe was speaking at the event on his own behalf and expressing his own views, which don’t necessarily reflect the views of Sen. Sessions or the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.—“Sen. Sessions’ goal on the patent bill is the same as it is on any legislation: to apply his best judgment to craft a bill that serves the long-term national interest,— he added.Still, according to the blog post, Matal said tech companies such as Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and others that are members of the Coalition for Patent Fairness “did enough fundraisers that they thought they would ram it through,— according to the post.The Coalition for Patent Fairness, which is lobbying for patent reform, defended its work on the bill. “We’ve supported the same kinds of patent changes that editorial pages across the country, Supreme Court justices and several Judiciary Committee chairs and ranking members have called for over the past five years,— a coalition spokesman said. “I am surprised, however, that a committee counsel would malign other Members of the House and Senate, from both sides of the aisle, like that,— he added.Tech lobbyists also said they were surprised by the comments given Matal’s criticism of previous attempts by the Senate and House to pass patent reform legislation and also for calling out specific companies’ financial contributions.Sessions is no stranger to taking financial contributions from the pharmaceutical industry and legal community, which are also heavily invested in the patent bill. The pharmaceutical and health industry were the top industry donors to Sessions, contributing nearly $708,973 over his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Political action committees and individuals from the legal community have contributed $997,104 to Sessions over his career.