New Congress, Administration Mean New Players on AUTM Issues

By Mike Waring 
February 24, 2021

With the inauguration of President Biden and the second impeachment trial of former President Trump now behind us, the focus in Washington moving forward will be on policy and personnel.
The Senate has only confirmed seven of Biden’s new Cabinet nominees, so much of the activity there will now focus on completing that task. Of interest to AUTM Members is the soon-to-be Secretary of Commerce, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. She comes from a background in the venture capital world and serves on Yale’s Board of Trustees. That could augur well as she understands technology transfer.
Once confirmed, her next role will be filling out her own leadership team, including the new heads of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These key agencies have a large impact on the world of AUTM Members, and who ultimately is selected and confirmed will determine if both agencies can continue the string of successes we enjoyed under both former PTO Director Andrei Iancu and former NIST Director Walt Copan.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Senate results means that Democrats will hold onto control – barely – of both the U.S. House and Senate. For the Senate Judiciary Committee, we will now see new leadership from Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). Durbin has been a champion of patent rights; Grassley (a former committee chairman) has also engaged on numerous patent issues. On the IP Subcommittee, the chairmanship will now fall to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chaired the full committee when the America Invents Act was passed in 2011. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) will become the ranking Republican. He worked on Section 101 reform as chairman of the subcommittee in the last Congress.
There are also several new members of the Senate panel – including newly-elected Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and newly-appointed Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), who replaces Vice President Kamala Harris. Another new member is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). AUTM institutions in these states should begin developing relationships with these new committee members as soon as possible.
The House Judiciary Committee will continue to be led by Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH). Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) returns to Congress and will be the ranking member of the IP Subcommittee there. One new member of note is Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), himself a prolific inventor and strong advocate for patent rights.
These lawmakers and administration officials will have a lot of say in how the federal government interacts with universities, institutions, and tech transfer over the next two years. As always, AUTM Members need to reach out to their federal relations colleagues to offer their assistance as we navigate both challenges and opportunities moving forward.