Archive for November, 2013

One Giant Step Forward (on Patent Reform)

Posted by Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation

Thanks to UStream, I and probably tens of other patent aficionados just finished watching an eight-hour “markup” in the House Judiciary Committee. (A markup is a working meeting of a Congressional Committee at which bills and amendments are offered and voted upon.)

For those of you who have never witnessed a markup, it’s a reaffirmation that our democracy does work. Members of Congress debate, deals are struck, and roll calls are taken (listening to the voice roll calls is amazingly hypnotic, by the way, I highly encourage giving it a try if you need a moment of clarity–“Ms. Chu? Ms. Chu votes ‘Aye’). And since I was invested in the outcome, even the introduction of mysterious “second degree amendments to amendments” was filled with drama.

I have been privileged to meet with members of Congress and their staffs to make the case for patent litigation reform, as I have mentioned in prior posts. What happened tonight was exceptional and inspirational. The House Judiciary Committee reported out the Innovation Act on a vote of 33-5 in a truly bipartisan fashion with 12 Democrats joining 21 Republicans.

Everyone recognized that patent trolls are a scourge on businesses small and large. The real debate was on what to do about it. In the end, Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), with strong support from Adobe’s hometown Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), offered an amendment that made this remarkable bipartisan vote possible. The Jeffries amendment clarified under what circumstances judges should not shift attorney’s fees to the prevailing party, making clear that reasonable patent infringement lawsuits will not be impacted and that plaintiffs in economic hardship will be protected.

In a previous life, I was actually a Schedule C employee in the Clinton Justice Department. I believe in access to justice for all, and reject the universal application of “loser pays” with regard to attorney’s fees — i.e., the English system. I was heartened to see that many on both sides of the aisle tonight recognized that patent litigation is a very narrow and special case where balanced fee shifting is appropriate.  Fee shifting has been in the patent act for decades (in Section 285) and updating it to address the troll phenomena is just good legislative sense.

Many thanks to Chairman Goodlatte and the entire House Judiciary Committee for the invigorating debate today, and to the 33 members of the Committee who voted to report the Innovation Act to the House floor for an eventual vote. I look forward to more improvements in the Act as this process continues.

The Senate Steps Up (on Patent Reform)

Posted by Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation

I wrote a couple weeks ago about the patent troll problem, and how we were seeing bipartisan action in the House of Representatives centered on the Innovation Act, Chairman Goodlatte’s comprehensive bill on patent reform.  I’m happy to report that we are seeing great momentum in the House, with a markup/committee vote taking place on the Act later today in the Judiciary Committee.  After the Judiciary markup, next stop for the Act is a vote of the full House, later this year or early 2014. For those Schoolhouse Rock fans out there, you know this is the first important step in a long process to have this bill become a law.

To that end, I’m pleased to report that the Senate has been just as active, and the work of a number of offices is now bearing fruit as introduced legislation.  Adobe supports the bills introduced by Senators Leahy (D-VT) and Lee (R-UT), as well as separate bills from Sens. Hatch (R-UT) and Cornyn (R-TX).

Each of these bills tackles different aspects of the troll problem.  The Leahy bill provides some important safeguards to ensure software developers like Adobe are able to limit the effects of abusive patent litigation filed against our customers.  Both the Hatch and Cornyn bills provide for fee shifting.  Allowing the prevailing party to collect fees will deter meritless patent lawsuits, as the plaintiffs will face a financial consequence if they lose.  The Hatch bill adds a critical element to the fee-shifting proposal by providing a discretionary bond that will ensure those shifted fees will actually get paid by someone.  The Hatch legislation also safeguards the rights of individual inventors and entrepreneurs by giving the court the option to impose the bond, and providing guidance to the court that certain entities (non-trolls, individual inventors, universities) should not be required to post bonds.

Taken together, these Senate bills amount to a comprehensive plan to address the troll problem.  They include critical measures on fee shifting, demand letters, customer stay, real party in interest, and many other positive elements.

We are thankful to Chairman Leahy and his staff for his commitment to solving the patent litigation abuse problem, and for moving legislation forward.  We are especially grateful to two hometown-hero Senators who have more than a thousand Adobe employees in their state—Senators Hatch and Lee.  Adobe looks forward to working with these three Senators, along with Senators Cornyn and Schumer, as the process moves forward.

Adobe supports the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Posted by Andrew Kirkpatrick, Group Product Manager for Accessibility in Adobe Accessibility

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2006, and has since been signed by 137 countries. The CRPD affirms the equality of all people, without exceptions due to their abilities. This month, Adobe sent a letter of support for the ratification of the Convention to Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Senate is responsible for approving treaties put forward for ratification by the president. The CRPD was signed by the United States in 2009. Unfortunately, at the time the CRPD was first presented to the Senate, it was not approved, falling just a few votes short of the required two-thirds vote.

Adobe is adding its voice to the chorus of organizations and advocates that believe the CRPD is an important step toward ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to government services, employment opportunities, and technological advances. One of the expectations of the CRPD is that ratifying countries will adopt standards for information technology accessibility. In order to facilitate the goal of equal access, it is critical that the adopted standards be harmonized to ensure that software from companies such as Adobe, developers creating content, and assistive technology vendors can focus on a single global standard for accessibility rather than needing to address unique requirements in each country.

The United States, through legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, has already affirmed that disability must not be a barrier to entering a building, finding and keeping a job, interacting with government officials and services, shopping, dining out, or moving from place to place. Other U.S. laws guarantee equal access to education, voting, buying a home, catching a flight, and even watch TV shows on the Internet. While there is still work to be done, the foresight of bipartisan U.S. policymakers over the decades in creating a legislative framework that moves this country toward equal access for all people is now being emulated worldwide. Ratifying the CRPD will further show the world that these are the values we should all share.

Bipartisan Agreement Exists! And It’s in Patent Reform

Posted by Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation

Most days, I love my job. I am chief IP counsel at one of the most innovative companies on the planet—Adobe. I work with some of smartest people in the world who develop industry-leading technologies for creatives and marketing pros. I also have the privilege of working with leading universities and technology companies to license their IP to help make our products the world-class experiences people expect from Adobe. All of this innovation is protected by intellectual property law, including over three thousand patents and applications, which is what enables Adobe to employ thousands, serve our customers and provide value to our shareholders.

But there is one aspect of my job that is not so fabulous—dealing with patent trolls. My boss, Mike Dillon, has blogged about this scourge (with his usual flair). I was privileged to testify about it before Congress earlier this year, to urge our lawmakers to act, and act now. As a lawyer, and as someone who believes in sticking up for the little guy, I truly believe in the importance of having access to courts to help redress rights. In fact, I am married to a  lawyer who has devoted her entire career to helping underprivileged people gain access to the courts, and it is an issue we are both passionate about. But abusive patent litigation is just a cynical practice designed to extort money out of its victims by taking advantage of the high cost of defending patent lawsuits. When put to the test, these patent trolls lose. One study shows that patent trolls’ lawsuits are defeated in court 92% of the time, compared to 60% for other plaintiffs. But in today’s system, they face no consequences for their actions.

That’s why I am excited that help is on the way, thanks to the Innovation Act. The bill was written by Chairman Bob Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee, along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors including Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Howard Coble, Peter DeFazio, Lamar Smith, Anna Eshoo, Jason Chaffetz, Spencer Bachus, Tom Marnio, Blake Farenthold, and George Holding. Many Adobe employees live in the districts of Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, and Jason Chaffetz, and we are particularly grateful for their support of a hometown company.

Adobe supports passage of the Innovation Act. We believe it protects the integrity of the patent system while reining in abusive litigation with the right solutions, especially with its focus on fee shifting.  We need to restore balance to this broken system, and the Innovation Act does just that.

Of course, there is more work to do to improve the bill, and we’ll be working with our friends in industry and Congress to help make those improvements going forward. Adobe’s sincere thanks go to Chairman Goodlatte for his leadership and to all the cosponsors and their staffs for understanding the insidious nature of the troll phenomenon and working to fix the problem.

To learn more about the patent troll problem and the need for reform, both the Business Software Alliance and Coalition for Patent Fairness have further information. You can learn how to contact your representatives in Congress here.

Congressman McDermott Visits Adobe Seattle

Posted by Bridget Perry, Vice President and Seattle Site Leader

On November 7, Adobe was privileged to host Congressman Jim McDermott for a constituent visit to our site in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.  Adobe’s Seattle site is in Representative McDermott’s Congressional district.

Adobe believes that government works best when lines of communication are open in both directions.  Over the years, we have hosted other U.S. and foreign government officials for at our sites worldwide, including San Jose, Lehi, Seattle, and San Francisco.  These visits are non-partisan and non-political, and give both sides the chance to talk technology, public policy, and ways our employees can contribute to their communities more effectively.

Adobe’s Seattle roots go back to 1984, when Aldus Corporation was founded here.  Aldus later merged with Adobe, and we moved to Fremont in 1998 to a site at the intersection of Lake Union and the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  We employ approximately 450 in Seattle, mostly in high-end engineering functions working on digital media products such as Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), AfterEffects, and InDesign.

Congressman McDermott participated in a technology demonstration and discussion with our site leadership council, and then held a lively Q&A with a group of our Seattle employees.  Thanks to the Congressman for a terrific visit!  It was a treat for all of us at Adobe Seattle.

Rep. McDermott answers employee questions during his visit to Adobe Seattle.

Rep. McDermott answers employee questions during his visit to Adobe Seattle.

Welcome to the Adobe Public Policy Blog

The Adobe Government Relations team is excited to launch our blog today. Here, we will be regularly authoring posts that provide insights on global public policy developments and other activities in which we are participating. You can also expect to see posts written by Adobe’s subject matter experts that provide additional ideas for the current technology policy debates in DC, Brussels, Sydney, and other capitals around the world.