Congress will get a new tech-related subcommittee that looks at intellectual property and the Internet when the House of Representatives' new Republican leadership is sworn in next month, indicating that the next Congress will likely have a renewed interest in IP issues.The new Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet will oversee copyright, patent, trademark and IT-related issues, incoming House Judiciary Committee chair Lamar Smith, R-Tex., said in a statement Monday.
"The protection of America's intellectual property is critical to our economic growth, job creation and ability to compete in the global marketplace," Smith said. "A separate IP subcommittee will ensure that the Committee remains focused on all aspects of intellectual property, including patent reform and copyright protections."
The new subcommittee replaces one that Democrats disbanded when they took control of the House in 2006. The now-outgoing Democrats moved IP-related issues to the full panel, where they got a larger audience but saw less specific focus. The new panel will hold weekly hearings on IP.
Smith himself has been a strong advocate for patent reform for the past few years, even stepping across the aisle to work with Democrats. He sponsored patent reform bills that passed the house in 2007 and 2008. In November remarks to a publication that covers the Department of Justice, Smith listed patent reform among his top priorities, pointing to bipartisan support for the changes.
While Smith may be a champion for patent reform, it's unclear whether Congress will actually make any headway in the upcoming session on an issue that's been anything but quick-moving. Advocates have been calling for patent reform for years, with little progress made. Though Smith might be able to get something through the House, the legislation could fail, as did the Patent Reform Act of 2007, which Smith sponsored, to pass the Senate.