Help save EFF's Patent Busting Project

We'll get to what you can do in a second.

Ten days ago the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned that patent "reform" legislation pending before the United States Senate would have the perverse effect of killing the EFF's highly successful Patent Busting Project. In fact, it could render all third-party patent watchdogs essentially toothless. ... Some reform.

Ten days later the EFF has heard exactly nothing in response to letters of concern it sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. This despite significant attention from the press and high-profile technology forums such as Slashdot and the geek page at Fark.

Ten days later and I've gotten nothing but lame excuses for my multiple attempts to get a sense from Leahy's office as to whether the watchdog-killing language in this "reform" legislation is set in stone, or if the senator is committed to seeing it removed. Here's yesterday's brush-off from a Leahy staffer: "Paul, I can't stress to you enough how much work is going into the patent reform legislation. We hear from literally dozens of groups on this important legislation and we read all of those letters and consider the concerns of these organizations as we work through this process."

Oftentimes journalists and public-interest groups are able to pry answers out of politicians more readily than can the general public. But not always, as is evidenced by this case. Sometimes the people who run the offices of these pols will respond better to inquiries from honest-to-goodness constituents - knowing that constituents vote, contribute and campaign.

So, if you're fed up with baseless patents and patent trolls; and, if you believe that public-interest groups such as the EFF should not be "reformed" out of the patent-review process, take a moment to see where your member of the Senate Judiciary Committee stands. If you're able to get a reply from any of these senators, in particular, Leahy or Specter, please pass it along to me and I'll share it with the group. (This is called crowdsourcing in today's vernacular.)

As the Leahy staffer notes above, patent reform is important legislation that you can bet is drawing behind-the-scenes attention from all manner of special interests. Whipping up public attention and support now as opposed to later may spell the difference in the outcome for the public's best interests. It could also keep the Patent Busting Project busting patents.

Vermont and Pennsylvania readers would be particularly helpful in pinning down Leahy and Specter, respectively, but the powerful Judiciary Committee boasts a who's who of Senate heavyweights, including: Kennedy, Biden, Hatch, Kohl, Grassley, Feinstein, Feingold, Kyl, Sessions, Schumer, Graham, Durbin, Cornyn, Cardin, Brownback, Whitehouse and Coburn.

All the contact information you could need is right here. The bill is S. 1145, the Patent Reform Act of 2007.

Put the question any way you choose, but here's a suggestion: "Does the senator support or oppose language in the Patent Reform Act of 2007 that the Electronic Frontier Foundation says would kill its Patent Busting Project and similar watchdog efforts?"

Pin them down now before the ink dries on this thing.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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