The American Conservative Union announced Wednesday ahead of a House markup of controversial patent reform legislation that it would look at Republican lawmakers’ vote on the bill when compiling its annual conservative ratings for next year.
Each year the ACU releases a scorecard for members of congress by looking at voting records and rating lawmakers based on how their votes align with conservative values.
The ACU typically does not announce which pieces of legislation will be considered in their scoring in order to keep from influencing votes, but took the drastic step this time to combat the House’s sweeping patent reform bill, known as the Innovation Act.
The bill aims to curb so-called “patent trolls” — mostly shell companies that buy up vague patents with the intent of suing other companies to profit from settlements — through a series of sweeping legislative reforms.
“The American Conservative Union ordinarily does not announce in advance the votes that will be used in our Annual Ratings of Congress. These ratings are meant to reflect where each member of Congress stood in a given year on fundamental conservative principles. We make exceptions on issues of overwhelming importance in safeguarding those principles,” Dan Schneider, ACU executive director, wrote in a letter sent to Congress Wednesday.
The ACU and other conservatives argue that the House bill imposes overreaching standards on patent litigation that would make it difficult for innovators to protect their property rights.
“[The Innovation Act] is not about trolls. It’s about immunizing patent infringers so that the value of patents will be diminished and can be bought cheaply,” Mr. Schnieder wrote. “It is not wonder the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE is now part of the alliance seeking to pass this bill as it will be so much easier for companies to sell Chinese knockoffs of American products if this bill passes.”
The Senate Judiciary committee approved last week its own patent reform bill, which will soon head to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a member of the Judiciary committee and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, voted against the bill, saying “I think we need to be particularly solicitous of protecting inventors, protecting the little guy, protecting those who are asserting their rights protected by the United States Constitution to develop new innovations and I fear that if we lean too far against the small patent holder that in turn will hamper innovation in our economy.”
Mr. Cruz earned a 100 percent rating from the ACU this year and was the only GOP presidential candidate to do so.
Mr. Cruz is not the only presidential contender to speak out against new patent legislation. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has said the legislation is too sweeping and “causes more problems than it solves.”
The House Judiciary Committee will conduct a markup of the Senate’s bill Thursday before voting to move it to the full floor.