April 22, 2011 | View Archive
Outlook — Budget Deficit Negotiations
After passing a spending bill funding the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year, Congress adjourned for a two week district work period on April 15, 2011. Members face tough negotiations on the budget deficit when they return to Washington, D.C. next month.
On April 13, President Obama outlined his plan to reduce the budget deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. The president has called for tax increases and reduced military spending, two items that are non-starters with the GOP. Congress must vote to raise the debt ceiling by as early as mid-May or risk defaulting on U.S. debt obligations.
President Obama charged Vice President Joe Biden with leading bipartisan, bicameral talks beginning next month with an eye to developing a plan by the end of June. The first meeting is scheduled for May 5.
The House and Senate leadership have named their representatives to the group. On April 15, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named Sen. Dan Inouye and Sen. Max Baucus while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell named Sen. Jon Kyl. On April 19, House Speaker John Boehner appointed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to the panel. Rep. Nancy Pelosi named Rep. James Clyburn and Rep. Chris Van Hollen to the group.
House Committee Approves Patent Reform
On April 14, the House Judiciary Committee approved patent reform legislation. For nearly six years, the higher education community and the private sector have negotiated to change the patent approval process. The full Senate passed its version of patent reform on March 8.
Like the Senate bill, the House bill would move the U.S. patent system from a "first to invent" to a "first inventor to file" system for establishing patent application priority. This move would harmonize the U.S. system with most of the rest of the world. Both versions also create a post-grant review system administered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that would provide a lower-cost alternative to litigation for challenging patents on issues of patent validity. And like the Senate bill, it would provide greater resources to the USPTO to address the backlog of patent applications.
Two key concerns for the university community - a broad expansion of prior user rights and the elimination of the elevated threshold for instituting an inter partes review - were addressed in House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith's manager's amendment and amendments adopted during the markup.
The House bill requires that a product for which a company is asserting a prior user rights defense must have been in commercial use for at least one year before the effective filing date of any patent against which the defense would be asserted. This change fully protects an inventor's disclosure about a patent during the one-year grace period. The manager's amendment also raises the threshold for initiating an inter partes review to one requiring the petitioner to show a "reasonable likelihood" that at least one claim in the challenged patent would be invalidated.
The bill now heads to a vote by the full House of Representatives.
Department of Education to Postpone Enforcement of Distance Education Regulations
On April 20, 2011, the Department of Education stated that they will postpone enforcement of the distance education regulations until July 1, 2014 as long as each institution is making a "good faith effort" to obtain State Authorizations before that date. Evidence of "good faith efforts" could be:
- Documentation that an institution is developing a program to track distance education
- Documentation that an institution has contacted a State directly to discuss authorization
- An application to a State
- Documentation from a State that an application is being considered
In the original regulations passed last October, every college or university would be required to request permission from all states where they currently offer distance education by July 1, 2011. Many institutions feared they would not have significant time to obtain authorization in every state where an enrolled student resides. Officials also feared that the federal definition could cause a significant burden not only on universities, but also the states that will be required to establish a process for providing approval. In order to alleviate these concerns, the Department of Education feels that allowing a three year grace period will allow states and institutions enough time to properly enforce the regulations. More information from the Department of Education can be found here: www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1111.html
New NIH Scientific Advisory Panel Set to Meet in May
A new panel of scientific experts has been named to advise the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Center for Scientific Review (CSR). The panel, entitled the CSR Advisory Council, will hold their first meeting on May 2, 2011. The panel will review CSR policies on peer review panels and provide input concerning CSR's policies and practices related to the receipt and referral of NIH grant applications to CSR review groups.
The CSR Advisory Council replaces the NIH Peer Review Advisory Committee. The CSR organizes the peer review groups that evaluate the majority of grant applications submitted to NIH.
Members of the panel include:
Bruce Alberts, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco.
Etty Benveniste, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Cell Biology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham.
John Cacioppo, Ph.D., Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago.
Alice Clark, Ph.D., Frederick A.P. Bernard Distinguished Professor of Pharmacognosy and vice chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs, University of Mississippi.
Garret Fitzgerald, M.D., chair, Department of Pharmacology; director, Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics; and McNeil Professor in Translational Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.
David Korn, M.D., professor of pathology and vice provost for research, Harvard University, Boston.
Marie Krousel-Wood, M.D., M.S.P.H., director, Center for Health Research, Ochsner Clinic Foundation; and clinical professor of epidemiology and family medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans.
Peter MacLeish, Ph.D., George H.W. and Barbara Bush Professor of Neuroscience; chair, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology; and director, Neuroscience Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta.
Andrew Murray, Ph.D., professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and director, Bauer Fellows Program, Harvard University.
Keith Yamamoto, Ph.D., executive vice dean, School of Medicine, Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco.
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