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Patently Offensive? Patent law has been a high-dollar lobbying topic on the Hill for some time, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Public Advisory Committee doesn’t normally draw the attention of K Street. Intended as a forum to allow top staffers at the office to gather suggestions and field complaints from the public, the committee meets quarterly; its members are picked by the secretary of commerce. The patent litigators, patent prosecutors, and inventors who compose it are not compensated for their time. Advocacy surrounding the nomination process typically ranges from low-key to nonexistent. In the past, says office spokeswoman Jennifer Rankin Byrne, people have occasionally written letters to make suggestions on nominees. But last month, the committee’s nomination process drew the attention of a big name: Hogan & Hartson. The firm is lobbying to get Douglas Luftman, general counsel of Hogan client Palm Inc., appointed to the body — and some of the committee’s current members aren’t too pleased about it. “It seems to me to be wholly inappropriate for a company or an industry to try to lobby someone for a nomination to an advisory board, particularly this one,” says Maximillian Grant, a patent litigator at Latham & Watkins who stresses that he’s speaking solely in his capacity as a committee member. Though the committee is vested with no formal powers, Grant says, “there’s no question” that its face time with patent officials gives it influence over how patents are processed and reviewed, subjects that could affect the difficulty of obtaining or challenging them. “If Palm is lobbying to get their people on there, how could they be there to lobby for the public interest?” Grant asks. But Jamie Wickett, a partner in Hogan & Hartson’s government affairs practice, brushes off any suggestion that his firm’s lobbying on the appointment is unusual. All appointees bring their own professional perspective to the committee, he says, and Palm simply wanted help in broadcasting Luftman’s qualifications on the Hill. Luftman is a fixture as a panelist and lecturer on the intellectual property law circuit, and Wickett says his nomination has garnered judicial support. In support of Luftman’s nomination, Hogan & Hartson lobbyist Michael Bell “has talked to majority and minority staff on the judiciary committees on both sides of the Capitol” and passed out Luftman’s r�sum�, Wickett says. He adds, “We’re not talking about some kind of campaign.” Wickett says Hogan & Hartson has not been lobbying on Palm’s business interests and does not intend to directly contact the Patent Office or the secretary of commerce. In fact, Wickett argues, before the lobbying reform package passed this summer, the firm might not have deemed its advocacy for Luftman lobbying. It’s quite possible, he says, that other hopefuls and their backers simply haven’t been so meticulous about reporting their efforts. “You’d have to have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday to think these people didn’t pick up the phone,” he says. Byrne at the Patent Office says a decision on the next batch of committee members will likely be announced early next year. What happens after that will be in the public view: A portion of each committee meeting is open to all comers. Usually, she says, the audience is sparse. — Jeff Horwitz
Payback As Capitol Hill turns its attention to predatory lending and mortgage defaults, banks and mortgage brokers are beefing up their lobbying. Bank of America, which is represented by Bryan Cave Strategies, the Federal Policy Group, and Quinn Gillespie & Associates, has added Public Strategies Washington, as did its rival Wachovia. The California Association of Mortgage Brokers hired Potomac Partners. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is pushing to tighten consumer protections in the mortgage industry. — Carrie Levine
Defamed? The Livingston Group has sued the Democratic Party of Virginia and Rex Simmons, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in the state’s House of Delegates held by Livingston lobbyist Tim Hugo. The defamation action, filed in state court earlier this month, involves mailers sent out by Simmons that tied Hugo and Livingston to CACI International, a company that has been investigated by the Army over its Iraq contracts. Though the firm once lobbied for the company, registrations show, the work ended before the problems began. Attempts to reach Simmons were unsuccessful, but a spokeswoman for the party has previously stated that the campaign literature should have been clearer. — Carrie Levine

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