When House Republicans wanted to pass patent reform last year, the job of educating the party’s members on the issue fell mainly to Steve Pinkos, policy director and general counsel in the office of Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Not only does Pinkos work day to day with House Republicans in the office he calls the “nerve center” for the party’s agenda, he spent three years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office during the George W. Bush administration, including a time as deputy director.
“Staff and members came to seek my opinion, more than just reciting the facts on that particular bill,” said Pinkos, 42, who also lobbied Congress on patent reform during a four-year break from living in Washington, before joining McCarthy’s office in 2011. “Intellectual property has become more divisive than I’ve ever seen it.”
The pressure was on. What would it say about the Republican whip if he couldn’t get patent reform through with a staffer with Pinkos’ pedigree? And, although the patent reform debate had been going on for years, there were a lot of freshman Republican members taking office this session.
“We realized that there’s going to be a difficult proposition. The members were operating from ground zero on this,” Pinkos said. “At the end of the day, I think people had a better understanding of the issue.”
The House ultimately passed a version of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act and it was signed into law last September — the first patent reform bill passed since the 1950s.
The position as McCarthy’s policy director has also put Pinkos on the front lines of the most important issues this session, such as the late-night negotiations on the debt-ceiling deal and forming a Republican consensus around the budget put forward by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
And his post as general counsel has him working on the Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which directs the activities of the House Office of General Counsel on issues like responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and the contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.
The position in McCarthy’s office is a return to the Hill for Pinkos. He had worked for six years as counsel for the House Judiciary Committee before leaving in 2004 to join the PTO. He went to live in Texas in 2007, from which he lobbied for companies such as Qualcomm, Viacom and others on a range of intellectual property issues before returning to Washington. — Todd Ruger