Tag: House Judiciary Committee

Lawmakers Push for Stronger Patent Protections from Customs and Border Protection

Manufacturers know that intellectual property is the basis of America’s innovative economy, and protecting intellectual property (IP) rights assures manufacturers that their inventions will be secure as they build their companies and create jobs. Manufacturers face many challenges in protecting their IP, and they need allies in the federal government to help halt illicit imports that infringe on their rights.

Several Congressional leaders recently called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to more effectively protect U.S. patent holders from imports that infringe their patents, without disrupting legitimate trade. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch sent a recent letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to inquire about CBP’s resources and processes for enforcing  exclusion orders. Rep. Howard Coble, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property & the Internet, also sent a letter expressing his concerns about CBP’s process for enforcing exclusion orders. Rep. Coble called for DHS to conduct an independent review of CBP’s enforcement procedures and make recommendations that would improve fairness, transparency and efficacy.

Under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is charged with investigating allegations of unfair import practices that involve patent infringement. If the ITC finds that a violation has occurred, it directs CBP to deny entry of the infringing product into the United States. Patent holders that prevail in these costly, technical and often contentious cases should expect robust enforcement from CBP. A survey conducted in FY2010 found that more than half of respondents believed infringing goods had been imported after ITC issued an exclusion order.

The NAM will continue working to ensure lawmakers pursue a manufacturing growth agenda that recognizes IP as the basis of an innovation economy and supports trade.

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Fighting Frivolous Litigation with the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced an important piece of civil justice reform, the Lawsuit Reduction Abuse Act.

The House bill is H.R. 966 (text).

From the joint news release:

The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA) imposes mandatory sanctions for lawyers who file meritless suits in federal court. Federal rules mandating sanctions for frivolous suits were watered down in 1993, resulting in the current crisis of widespread lawsuit abuse. LARA restores the mandatory sanctions which hold attorneys accountable for lawsuit abuse.

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Reinstates the requirement that if there is a violation of Rule 11, there are sanctions (Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was originally intended to deter frivolous lawsuits by sanctioning the offending party).
  • Requires that judges impose monetary sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits. Those monetary sanctions will include the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the victim of the frivolous lawsuit.
  • Reverses the 1993 amendments to Rule 11 that allow parties and their attorneys to avoid sanctions for making frivolous claims by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts has a hearing scheduled on the bill at 10 a.m. Friday, March 11. Victor Schwartz, general counsel for the American Tort Reform Association, will be one of the witnesses, ATRA reports.

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Even in House Judiciary, Jobs

Hugh Hewitt interviews incoming House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) on the committee’s priorities in the 112th Congress. The committee has jurisdiction over immigration, which takes up much of the conversation. Still, jobs will be the focus, Smith says:

LS: I…we’ll have to see. Again, that, like the other issues you’ve mentioned, that’ll be sometime in the future. The priority is going to be on job creation. And let me come back to that for a minute.

HH: Please.

LS: Because you had this entire flurry of bills that were passed in the waning days of this lame duck session. And not a single bill was passed, after all that flurry of activity, after all those days of voting, after all the posturing by the Democrats, not a single bill that was passed is actually going to create new jobs. And I think the American people wanted us to create jobs, they want us to rein in government spending, address deficit reduction, get our economy under control where it’s growing again. And so all the hearings that we have on the Judiciary Committee, and the immigration subcommittee is just one of my five subcommittees, but every single subcommittee is going to be having hearings and oversight on creating jobs. And that’s why we’ll have an oversight. For instance, on the immigration subcommittee, on e-verify. And that’s the system whereby employers can very quickly in a few seconds determine whether it’s likely somebody who has applied for a job is legal in the country or not. That’s why we’re going to have a hearing about the Obama administration’s almost abandoned worksite enforcement. It’s down 70% in the last two years as far as the efforts by the administration to actually make sure that illegal workers are not working in the United States, and that we save and protect those jobs for American citizens. So anything that has to do with jobs that we can save or create for American citizens, and for legal immigrants alike, that will be our focus on the Judiciary Committee.

We get what the Congressman is talking about: The high-profile issues of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the 9/11 Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, and the START agreement with Russia were not jobs bills. The Senate failed to act on the Miscellaenous Trade Benefits legislation, a proven jobs creator.

But the tax package, which prevented higher taxes hammering employers, and the reauthorization of the AMERICA Competes Act and its R&D and educational provisions, will do much to improve the climate for employment. The lameduck session of Congress did do some good.

Not every worthy piece of legislation has to deal with jobs, and at times, invoking “jobs, jobs, jobs” starts to look strained, no matter how popular the political theme is.

If the economy is the priority, the best thing the House Judiciary Committee could do would be to ensure the rule of law and prevent any worsening of the damaged and expensive civil justice system that burdens employers. Chairman-elect Smith’s emphasis on oversight hearings fits right in with those goals.

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