Press Releases

Press releases are archived according to their release date. For press releases by topic, please see the Issue Positions page.

Washington, DC— Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the senior member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gave the following remarks at the US Patent and Trademark Office this morning. Senator Hatch has long fought to strengthen intellectual property law, including with his most recent IP bill, the Music Modernization Act, which was signed into law last month. At this morning’s event, several senior officials paid tribute to Senator Hatch’s pioneering efforts on intellectual property reform. Among them were Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce, and former Hatch staffers Makan Delrahim, now Assistant Attorney General over Antitrust at the Department of Justice, and Sharon Prost, the Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  

Senator Hatch has spent four decades championing intellectual property rights. 

“I’ve worked hard these past four decades to strengthen our nation’s IP laws. Patents, copyright, trade secrets—I’ve had my hand in them all. I believe our economy is only as strong as our intellectual property laws. Promote research and innovation by protecting discoveries, and our country will continue to thrive. We’ll stay at the forefront of science and technology. We’ll remain the global leader in media and business development.”

The full remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Thank you for that warm welcome and for the opportunity to be here today. It’s wonderful to be among so many friends. I’d like to offer special thanks to Director Iancu for organizing this event and for all he’s doing to ensure we have a well-balanced, well-functioning patent system. I’d also like to thank Secretary Ross for taking time from his busy schedule to be here today. He’s doing a great job at the Commerce Department, and I’m grateful to him for his service to our country.

As you all know, I’m nearing the end of 42 years in the Senate. It’s been a great privilege to serve the people of Utah and to be able to work with so many of my colleagues on so many important issues throughout the years.

Intellectual property has been a particular focus of mine. IP protections are essential to our economy and to keep our country at the forefront of global innovation.

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead enactment of a number of important IP bills during my time in the Senate.

Early in my tenure, I worked with Representative Henry Waxman of California to pass the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act, better known as Hatch-Waxman. This bill created a process for generic drug manufacturers to enter the market while also granting brand manufacturers a period of exclusivity to enable them to recoup their investments. It led to an explosion in the availability of generic drugs, driving down drug prices and giving Americans greater access to affordable medication.

Patent law isn’t just about prescription drugs, of course. It extends to all aspects of our economy and is particularly important in the technology sector. All of those amazing gadgets and innovations our friends in tech come up with—well, patent law ensures they’re able to reap the rewards for their ingenuity. Which in turn incentivizes further research and innovation.

But patent law must be properly balanced. We must make it neither too easy nor too difficult to obtain a patent. And we must make it neither too easy nor too difficult to enforce a patent. We also need to ensure that the patents this office issues are high quality.

Which brings me to the America Invents Act, or AIA. I introduced the first Senate version of the AIA back in 2006 with Pat Leahy. The AIA made a number of crucial updates to our nation’s patent laws. But the one that seems to have generated the most controversy in the ensuing years has been inter partes review, or IPR. Who would have thought when we passed the AIA that IPR would be the issue that would most divide the patent community? Certainly not those of us who wrote the bill. IPR was an issue that most seemed to agree on at the time. I think most of us recognized that a beefed-up administrative review process was necessary. What we perhaps didn’t foresee was how the process would play out.

As many of you likely know, I’ve spoken at length in other venues about my concerns with how IPR is impacting Hatch-Waxman. I’m a strong supporter of IPR. Always have been, always will be. But I’m worried we didn’t think through how the availability of expedited PTO review would impact the carefully balanced Hatch-Waxman framework, which sets forth specific timelines for litigation and FDA review and does not contemplate a collateral attack through IPR. I’ve offered a proposal that I believe would address these unintended consequences. My proposal, which I’ve dubbed the Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act, would put generic manufacturers wishing to challenge a brand patent to a choice: either go the traditional Hatch-Waxman route, or use IPR. But you can’t do both. I look forward to continued discussion and consideration of this proposal in the coming months and beyond.

Enough about patents. Let’s talk a little about copyright. I know this is PTO, but we can still talk about copyright. Patent and copyright can be friends.

One of the primary challenges with copyright law is ensuring it stays up to date with changing technology. When we think about copyright, we often think first about books and magazines—printed material. But copyright is about much more than words on a page. It’s about all sorts of media like movies and television shows, music and sound recordings. It’s about physical media like CDs and DVDs. And it’s about online media like Spotify and Netflix. As technology changes and we continue to find new ways to consume movies and books and music, our copyright laws must keep pace.

That’s why I led enactment of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the late 1990s, when advances in digital technology were making it easier than ever to pirate movies and music. The DMCA, as those in the business call the bill, placed strict restrictions on the ability to circumvent access controls on CDs, DVDs, and other digital media that are designed to prevent unauthorized reproduction. It also provided liability protection for internet service providers and other intermediaries.

Recent years have seen a transition from CDs and DVDs to online streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix. This has posed a number of challenges, particularly in the music industry, which is governed by a morass of outdated and overlapping licensing laws.

That brings me to my most recent IP bill, the Music Modernization Act, which President Trump signed into law last month. I won’t put you through the pain of trying to explain the jumble of arcane music licensing laws that the bill updated. All you really need to know is that the bill creates a central clearinghouse to ensure songwriters get paid when Pandora, Spotify, and other digital music services play their songs and provides liability protection for those services in return. The bill vastly simplifies what had been a crazy system that wasn’t working for anyone and also provides copyright protection for legacy sound recordings.

Before I conclude, there’s one other form of IP protection that I need to mention—trade secrets.

We all know how important trade secrets are. They’re the sales strategy, the manufacturing breakthrough, or the secret sauce recipe that gives a company its edge. They’re the reason companies require employees to sign non-competes, and they can be worth millions of dollars.

Unlike patents and copyrights, trade secrets are not granted by the federal government. They’re developed in-house. And they have value only so long as they remain confidential. When a company gets wind that a former employee, or someone else, is shopping around one of its trade secrets, the company’s only real recourse is to go to court to try to stop the disclosure. Or if disclosure has already occurred, the company can seek damages.

Prior to 2016, however, there was a significant hole in the law. A company couldn’t actually go to court to defend its trade secrets. At least, it couldn’t go to federal court. It either had to try to persuade the Department of Justice to block the disclosure, or it could go to state court if state law provided a remedy. The reason was that there was no federal private cause of action for trade secret theft.

And so in 2016, I led enactment of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, or DTSA, which created a federal private cause of action. Under DTSA, a company that has reason to believe one of its trade secrets is about to be disclosed can obtain a federal injunction barring the disclosure and requiring the return of any misappropriated property or information. Damages remedies are also available. By giving teeth to federal trade secret protections, DTSA helps to ensure that companies are able to safeguard their valuable innovations.

As you can see, I’ve worked hard these past four decades to strengthen our nation’s IP laws. Patents, copyright, trade secrets—I’ve had my hand in them all. I believe our economy is only as strong as our intellectual property laws. Promote research and innovation by protecting discoveries, and our country will continue to thrive. We’ll stay at the forefront of science and technology. We’ll remain the global leader in media and business development.

I hope my Senate colleagues will continue my work on IP. There’s still so much more to be done. I’m sure that Director Iancu and Secretary Ross and all of you have a number of IP-related ideas that you’d like Congress to take a look at. I encourage you to reach out to my colleagues. You all are the experts. And with your help, the sky’s the limit.

Thank you so much.