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Phil Warrick on Working with Sen. Coons to Improve Patent System

Phil Warrick on Working with Sen. Coons to Improve Patent System

How is patent policy made in Congress?  Few know better than Philip Warrick.  Phil served as Senator Coons’ top IP advisor after Coons helped restart the Senate’s IP Subcommittee. In that role, Phil helped lead the subcommittees’ efforts to improve America’s patent system, including legislation to fix the patent eligibility mess.  Those efforts were a dramatic departure from Congress’s previous fixation on the “patent troll” narrative. 

After Coons friend and fellow Delawarean, Joe Biden, was elected as president, the innovation community was hopeful that Coons would use his top role on the Subcommittee to prioritize patent issues within the Biden administration and Congress. 

However, Democrat Senator Leahy had other ideas and took over as the top Democrat on the Subcommittee.  Since that time, the Subcommittee has moved in a very different, anti-patent direction and Leahy's views have won out in seemingly every major administration decision related to patents.

Yet, in another twist, Leahy has announced that he is retiring and won’t seek re-election in ‘22.  So, Coons is likely to return to his role as the top Democrat on the IP Subcommittee.

On this episode, Eli talks to Phil about what it was like to work for Senator Coons, how to effectively lobby on patent issues, and big tech's influence on patent policy.

Episode Highlights:

[00:07] Meet the expert: Few know IP law better than Philip Warrick.

[01:53] Getting to know patents: As an undergraduate student, Warrick knew he had an interest in law. The interest led him to his first job in the field — before he ever set foot in law school.

[04:54] A career curveball: Warrick never planned to work on Capitol Hill, but things changed when opportunity knocked.

[11:38] Creating a network: Warrick shares one of the most important lessons he learned on the Hill, an environment where many are chasing their own agenda.

[14:59] Working across the aisle: Warrick discusses the bills and initiatives he worked to push forward with representatives across the political spectrum, including with former podcast guest Brad Watts

[18:35] Finding a solution: Coons’ team hoped drafting legislation would clarify Section 101 of U.S. patent code, a clause often confused with Section 112. The hearings didn’t go the way he hoped.

[28:35] Hope for a better solution: The drafted bill didn’t quite achieve the outcome they had hoped for, but that doesn’t mean the future is bleak.  

[32:09] Building stronger patents: An ongoing challenge at the forefront of Sen. Coons’ concerns for patents in America is getting the Stronger Patents Act passed. The law would make it easier and less costly for patent holders to enforce their patents. 

[40:41] Finding common ground: Warrick discusses the dynamic between Sen. Coons and Sen. Tillis, who were on opposite sides of the aisle and how it affected their efforts on patent law.

[42:58] The future of IP in the Senate: As Sen. Patrick Leahy, current chair of the IP subcommittee, plans to retire in two years, Warrick hopes conversations around patent law will remain in conversations on the Hill.

[43:58] A patent-unfriendly administration?: The Biden administration has taken a position far from what Sen. Coons would have chosen, Warrick says. 

[46:56] A complex dynamic: The most surprising thing to Warrick was the complicated relationships and dynamics between offices and staffers. “And there certainly are situations where people are looking to get things done, they want to cut deals … [and] where you're not debating one bill in isolation.”

[51:52] A voice in the debate: For companies and organizations with patents, even minor changes in patent law could have a major impact. Collaboration goes a long way in ensuring your voice is heard when these issues are on the table.

[55:28] Know the playing field: If an organization wants to influence legislation, the foremost important factor is understanding the debate and the issue’s impact. That way, they can propose a viable solution.

Voice of IP
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The podcast listened to by sophisticated in-house counsel, judges from around the world, IP policymakers, senior USPTO officials, and top patent dealmakers and attorneys to stay ahead of the curve by understanding the personalities and forces shaping IP.
Eli Mazour’s love of talking to people – along with his belief in the importance of America’s patent system – led him to start Clause 8. Clause 8 features conversations that provide strategic insights about how to best deal with various patent-related issues. Some of the previous guests include America’s great innovators, federal judges, USPTO Directors, top IP staffers on Capitol Hill, and Carole Baskin’s attorney from the documentary Tiger King.
It's the #1 podcast about IP and is in the top 2.5% of all podcasts according to Listen Score. The podcast has been covered and cited in many publications, including Bloomberg, Law360, Courthouse News Service, Above the Law, IAM, and Original Jurisdiction.