SAN JOSE, February 26, 2007–Legislation to overhaul aspects of the patent system could take shape in as few as two or three weeks, said Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and the Internet.
“This is an issue that doesn’t break down on partisan grounds,” said Berman, adding that the technology sector’s desire to seek changes in patent laws has “created a groundswell, a strong momentum for reform, to make it the highest priority of our subcommittee.”
Berman, who was speaking at the Tech Policy Summit here, said that last Congress patent legislation died in a crossfire between the technology industry, which broadly supported changes, and the pharmaceutical industry, which opposed them. Berman said he had been pushing for changes since 2000.
Berman said the pharmaceutical industry relied on its strong ties to the Republican leadership to reject changes to patent law. “The order came from on high, not to move legislation. Rather than a mechanism to work through differences, essentially, it was a sham process, because the [Republican] leadership of the committee was told not to move the bill,” said Berman.
On copyright issues, Berman also he hadn’t signed on to legislation–which he supported last year–that would impose restrictions on ability of XM Satellite Radio Company, and others, to allow subscribers to digitally record songs to a handheld device.
“I haven’t reintroduced the PERFORM Act,” Berman said, a reference to the legislation, which was strongly supported by the recording industries. He said he hoped to hold a hearing soon on the copyright issues raised by satellite and terrestrial radio’s distribution of performances.