Rohrabacher Letter Describes Status of Patent Legislation

Note: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) credits public pressure brought to bear on Congress after his many appearances on talk radio and NET talk television with the success of his effort to amend legislation that would , in his view, seriously undermine America’s global competitiveness and the work of small U.S. inventors by changing America’s patent system.

This document is a letter Rep. Rohrabacher sent to conservatives after the legislation was voted on in the House. Since the mainstream media played very little attention to this issue when it was voted on, this letter is being posted on Capitol Link so that the many listeners and viwers of talk TV and radio who got involved in this issue will know what transpired in Congress.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

May 5, 1997

Dear Conservative Leader:

I want to personally thank you for your support during the continuing battle over patent rights. On April 24, 220 Members of Congress voted for Marcy Kaptur’s pivotal amendment which included much of the language of my H.R. 811, the Patent Term Restoration Act. The amended bill still represents a threat to America’s technological edge, but through the Kaptur amendment we have eliminated two of the bill’s worst elements.

  • We have severely reduced the risk in Title II, Publication, by exempting small entities, independent inventors, and universities from general publication … while still blocking the alleged threat from “submarine” patents by giving more preemptive tools to the PTO Commissioner. However, the guaranteed 17 year patent term will not be restored by this bill.
  • We have eliminated the substantial threat of endless challenges to an American inventor’s existing and future patents by deleting the greatly expanded provisions of Title V, Reexamination.
  • However, we have not deleted the provisions for Title III, Prior Domestic Commercial Use, which is of particular concern to universities and small businesses. This is very difficult to explain in laymen’s terms.
  • We also have not deleted the provision for a “Corporatized” Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) with the built-in opportunities for improper influence in PTO’s quasi-judicial functions. We did secure some small gains for the professional examiners in the PTO, but remain steadfast with them in opposing the effort to sever the patent office from the federal government.

The battle now moves to the Senate. The sponsors of H.R. 400 have announced their intention to gut the Kaptur Amendment in that body. We will request our colleagues in the Senate to modify S.507 to include the Kaptur provisions, and to deal with the other threats we did not delete in the House bill. As it stands, S. 507 is much worse than the amended version of H.R. 400. Unless the bill finally reported by the conference committee protects America’s inventors, small business, colleges and universities, we will ask you to reject it.

We didn’t ask for a recorded vote on the House passage of H.R. 400, because adoption of the Kaptur Amendment just before passage made it a quite different bill than the version on which the battle lines had been drawn. Since that will not be likely, with the final, conferenced version of H.R. 400, we may well request a recorded vote on the conference report.

I thank you for your support on this issue, and ask you to stay the course in the future.


Dana Rohrabacher
Member of Congress

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.