Lobbyists Get Random Unsuspecting Groups To Rally Against Patent Reform

from the who-said-what-now? dept

We've discussed in the past the neat little trick of some underhanded lobbying groups in DC who run down a list of random "interest groups" and get them to sign on in "support" of some bill or another, without having any knowledge or real interest in the matter. The key quote from that article was: "You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them.... You say, 'I can't use this one--I already used them last time...' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'"

Well, it appears that the same thing is happening with patent reform. Wired has done a little digging, and was curious why an anti-communist Hungarian group, the Minutemen (vigilante border guards), and various religious groups have suddenly come out against patent reform. In pretty much all cases, the groups don't seem knowledgeable at all about the actual issues, and were basically told to "sign on" after being given a one-sided presentation that falsely claimed that patent reform was designed to harm American inventiveness and help foreign companies. The best explanation, however, goes to Laszlo Pasztor, the 87-year-old "honorary chairman" of the National Federation of American Hungarians, who is very much opposed to patent reform, though he seems rather confused why:
"It was in Chicago or Detroit, I can't remember. Somebody brought this up, I don't know for what reason... So I gave them permission to use my name."
But, then it gets better. Wired asked Pasztor if it could speak to others in his group that were more knowledgeable about the issue, when Pasztor admitted that the group was being disbanded, but:
"I am a 87 and a half years old," he explained. "And our treasurer is 91 years old. Our chairman, who is a Roman Catholic priest, is so busy working on church issues in Ukraine and Slovakia, it is impossible to reach him."

Pasztor volunteered to get us more information once he reaches Washington. "I will try to reach the still living members of the board," he said.
Nice coalition against patent reform there...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    Ignoring the names of new "advocacy" groups, an approach utilitzed by groups both pro and con "patent reform", the fact of the matter is that this so-called "patent reform" legislative proposal once more focuses on the "trivial" and fails to squarely confront the "substantive".

    If people are concerned about the quality of disclosures under our current First-to-Invent system, it will be quite interesting to see their reactions under a First-to-File system.

    Over the past ten or so years both Congress and the Courts have weighed in and curtailed many of the aspects of Patent Law that have generated so much controversy (e.g., obviousness, eligible subject matter, venue, damages, injunctive relief, etc.) One matter over which neither has any control is the actual day-to-day operation of the USPTO. Most who practice within this area of law view this matter as the one of utmost importance, and, yet, this proposed legislation once again ignores this important need. Until it is addressed the patent process will continue "business as usual" and meaningful reform will not be realized.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    Re:

    Your comment is somewhat vague. You state that the USPTO will have "business as usual," but only after describing matters, e.g., obviousness and eligible subject matter, that are directly relevant to the day-to-day operation of the USPTO.

    Indeed, Bilski and the more recent In Re Kubin have had significant affect on the activities of the USPTO. If Congress waits long enough, courts will resolve most of the USPTO issues without it, leaving only the litigation related activities like damages, since courts are already addressing the venue and injunctive relief issues themselves.

     

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  3.  
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    bikey (profile), Apr 13th, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    patent reform

    You're getting derailed here. What's important is the lobbying, as L. Lessig and anyone else who is informed about the futility of fighting IP creep through normal legal channels well know. They get what they pay for, and they are paying a lot. The purpose of patent law, the state of the country (beyond the few IP holders that represent the country as things stand) - none of these matter to these guys. Read So Damn Much Money, and Ken Silverstein's new book. The lobbysts own the place. Stop sweating the small stuff.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Karl, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    Astroturf...

    Co-opting front groups is a pretty common practice now, and gives artificial "consumer" legitimacy to ideas that wouldn't ordinarily have any -- since the ideas being pushed almost always erode consumer rights or raise prices.

    Pioneers on this front are AT&T and Verizon, who even use groups like the National Association For the Deaf (NAD) to regurgitate talking points. If you visit the NAD website's tech area, the entire thing was written by Verizon.

    Corn Farmers for higher TV prices!

    Would be nice to see more journalists drawing connections like these and clearly illustrating them for readers.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    Talking points for the deaf? Hahaha, that's funny.

     

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  6.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 13th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Re:

    Ignoring the names of new "advocacy" groups, an approach utilitzed by groups both pro and con "patent reform", the fact of the matter is that this so-called "patent reform" legislative proposal once more focuses on the "trivial" and fails to squarely confront the "substantive".

    Ah yes. Ignoring the entire point of this post, let's talk about something entirely different?

    I've already made my position clear on why I don't agree with this bit of patent reform either. Yet that's not what we're discussing here, so I'm not even sure why you would bring it up?

     

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  7.  
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    Michael F. Martin, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    Hmmm...

    Not a good way to make the point that big companies don't pick on the little guys...

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous for the little guy, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 2:34pm

    Re:

    Amen brother. First to file will do nothing for application quality and it will create a race to the patent office that will favor the deep pockets that can pay to keep lawyers working 24/7 at the expense of the little guy

     

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  9.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Apr 13th, 2009 @ 2:45pm

    Re:

    Oh, Lord. That is too funny.

     

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  10.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 13th, 2009 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Hmmm...

    Not a good way to make the point that big companies don't pick on the little guys...


    Whoever said that they don't? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: big companies are just as likely, if not more likely, to abuse the patent system than the other way around.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 6:08pm

    Re: Re:

    Is there a reason why even relatively innocuous comments seem to upset you? I was noting merely that this type of "sleazy" activity exists on all sides of the issue, and in the process the end objective is oftentimes lost.

    Re proposed reforms, since most have already been addressed by other legislation and judicial decisions, it troubles me that one of the core problems is being largely ignored, to wit, the operation of the USPTO. It is understaffed to meet current needs, it has enacted internal policies virtually ensuring that many applications receive only minimal scrutiny, etc.

    I mentioned FTF versus FTI precisely because under our current FTI system many people loudly decry the quality and thoroughness of an invention's disclosure in an application. In my view a change from FTI to FTF will have a detrimental effect as people slap applications together in order to win the race to the USPTO. A complete disclosure being an applicant's portion of quid pro quo, I am troubled by movement in a direction I believe is likely to negatively impact such disclosures.

     

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  12.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 13th, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    Vigilante?

    The Minutemen aren't "vigilantes," at least in the common parlance. They're more like a neighborhood watch.

     

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  13.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 13th, 2009 @ 7:09pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Is there a reason why even relatively innocuous comments seem to upset you? I was noting merely that this type of "sleazy" activity exists on all sides of the issue, and in the process the end objective is oftentimes lost.

    Nothing about it upset me. I just couldn't figure out why you were bringing up an entirely unrelated issue.

    As for it being the case on both sides of the issue, can you point out which totally unrelated groups are in favor of patent reform?

    Re proposed reforms, since most have already been addressed by other legislation and judicial decisions, it troubles me that one of the core problems is being largely ignored, to wit, the operation of the USPTO. It is understaffed to meet current needs, it has enacted internal policies virtually ensuring that many applications receive only minimal scrutiny, etc.

    Again, not sure why you are discussing this. It's irrelevant to the post.

    I mentioned FTF versus FTI precisely because under our current FTI system many people loudly decry the quality and thoroughness of an invention's disclosure in an application. In my view a change from FTI to FTF will have a detrimental effect as people slap applications together in order to win the race to the USPTO.

    Yes, same thing I've been saying for years. But again... why bring it up now when it has nothing to do with what's being discussed?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 8:28pm

    Yes, same thing I've been saying for years. But again... why bring it up now when it has nothing to do with what's being discussed?

    Perhaps because some who read posts concerning patent reform, but are unfamiliar with the issues (as apparently were some of the groups you mentioned), might garner a bit of useful information.

    Quite frankly, my quite innocent comment certainly was a bit more relevant than many of those made in response to your Mesh presentation (which I did watch from start to finish). Seriously, what the heck did QT have to do with anything?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Jonathan, Apr 13th, 2009 @ 9:27pm

    It seems this act didn't killed the software patents. It is shame.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 14th, 2009 @ 12:20am

    Re:

    Quite frankly, my quite innocent comment certainly was a bit more relevant than many of those made in response to your Mesh presentation (which I did watch from start to finish). Seriously, what the heck did QT have to do with anything?

    To watch the videos you had to have QuickTime installed... which made it quite relevant.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2009 @ 8:22am

    "To watch the videos you had to have QuickTime installed... which made it quite relevant."

    Fortunately I do have QT installed, so viewing was quite easy. I must admit, however, that the term "MaRS" in the lower, right hand corner had me a bit confused. Was it a logo or a geographical reference? :-)

     

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  18.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 14th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    Re:

    Fortunately I do have QT installed, so viewing was quite easy. I must admit, however, that the term "MaRS" in the lower, right hand corner had me a bit confused. Was it a logo or a geographical reference? :-)

    MaRS is the name of the facility, and it was staff there that did the filming.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 14th, 2009 @ 9:48am

    Re:

    We're in a first to file system

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    LBD, Apr 14th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    Re: Re:

    We already HAVE first to file. That's why we need to reform!

     

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  21.  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Apr 15th, 2009 @ 2:56am

    It is not the lobbyists.

    Mike,

    For the record religious groups and nationalist groups have been involved in patent reform issues for well over a decade. Their involvement is not driven by lobbyists. In fact their involvement is driven by Phyllis Schlafly.

    I agree that the scenario you describe may happen in some cases but I know for a fact that this is not what is driving this group. Their motivation is to protect America. They most certainly are not stupid and you should not demean them by implying that they are.

    I have really tried to educate you about these issues. You are so incredibly anti-intellectual property that it is pathetic. If you succeeded in eliminating or greatly weakening the ability to protect American ingenuity then other countries would have even greater freedom to copy our inventions and to take profits from those inventions for themselves. America cannot maintain our standard of living competing for razor thin profit margins with developing countries. This is something which Phyllis Schlafly understands and you either cannot or refuse to understand.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    Speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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