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Much has been made of Google CLO David Drummond’s blog rant about technology patents, one of the louder salvos in the increasingly high-volume battles over high-tech intellectual property. But Drummond, Microsoft, and others who are trying to make their voices heard over the din may have an ulterior motive: They might be engaging in a bit of public lobbying. After government officials and the media outlets that cover them began to move past the debt ceiling debate that was consuming Washington, D.C., all eyes turned back to boosting U.S. employment rates. And near the top of Washington’s jobs agenda is patent reform. According to an article in The Hill that ran on August 2, soon after both houses of Congress had passed debt ceiling legislation, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said Tuesday that the first jobs bill to move after the recess will be the patent reform legislation.” The bill is one of many expected to come before Congress under the mantle of job creation: “Reid and bill sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said the bill, which speeds patent applications, is expected to create 200,000 jobs.” The idea of patent reform as job stimulus is endorsed by the White House, too, with President Barack Obama saying at a June 29 press conference, “Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new product or idea—because we can’t give innovators in other countries a big leg up when it comes to opening new businesses and creating new jobs.” Will Congress be able to shape legislation that will boost economic output; satisfy corporations like Apple, Google, and HTC that have a big stake in the patent system; and address the litigious actions of so-called patent trolls? Zach Carter, writing in The Huffington Post, is skeptical. “The Spoilsmen: How Congress Corrupted Patent Reform” is a lengthy (and clearly opinionated) examination of the history of the U.S. government’s role in the patent system, with Carter even laying the blame for the rise of patent trolls squarely at the feet of Congress: “When legislators first introduced a patent bill in 2005, they designed it to lower the costs of lawsuits burdening Internet and software companies. Lured by the big, juicy settlements to be won by suing huge companies for intellectual property theft, an entire industry had emerged around patent chasing alone.” It’s also not clear that speeding up the patent process will fix the existing issues with the system. Florida attorney Aaron Thalwitzer, writing for TacticalIP.com, suggests that the current system might already be too fast, since “patent examiners are not judges—they are not required to go to law school, or obtain a bar license. Yet courts are not only likely to uphold the issuance of a patent, there exist legal presumptions and procedures which, pursuant to design or chance, tip the scales in favor of issuance of a patent.” He argues that a slowed-down system, with additional training for patent examiners and additional brakes within the process, could lead to a better quality of issued patents. Given the enormous stakes on the table from patents in technology and other corporate sectors, Congress is going to have its hands full when (and if) it takes up patent reform following the August legislative break. And it’s a safe bet that Google—and many, many other companies whose present and future successes hinge on the U.S. patent system—will be paying attention and making some noise. See also: “Google’s Chief Legal Officer Lashes Out Online,” CorpCounsel, August 2011.

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