Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reps. John Conyers, Jr. and Debbie Dingell & Sen. Gary Peters to Meet with Detroit Entrepreneurs at USPTO Patent & Innovation Forum


DETROIT, MI –U.S. Reps. John Conyers (MI-13) and Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D - MI) will meet with entrepreneurs and local small business owners at a patent and innovation forum TOMORROW, April 17th, at 4:00 PM at the Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Detroit.  They will be joined by Michelle Lee, Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director, USPTO, and A. Christal Sheppard, Director of the USPTO in Detroit.

WHAT:           Elected officials to meet with Detroit Entrepreneurs at USPTO Patent and Innovation Forum

WHO:             U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)
                        U.S. Representative John Conyers (MI-13)
                        U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (MI- 12)
Michelle Lee, Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director, USPTO
A.    Christal Sheppard, Director, USPTO in Detroit

WHEN:           TOMORROW, April 17, 2015  -  4:00 PM

WHERE:        The Stroh Atrium - Detroit USPTO Office
                        300 River Place, Detroit, MI (map)
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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Women and Children's Nutrition: America's Best Investment

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Goldberg v. Kelly, which held that some public benefits are so essential to human survival that they cannot be legally terminated without a formal notice and a hearing. This month also marks the start of Congress' annual appropriations season, the time when Members of Congress deliberate over what to fund for the next fiscal year, and, regrettably, a time when many of the safety net programs that the Supreme Court deemed so essential come under threat from our colleagues. In this year's appropriations process, we have a simple message: Providing a safety net is not only morally right but fiscally responsible. This is especially true of the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) which is effective in addressing urgent human needs and critical for empowering the next generation of citizens and workers.

Since Congress voted to establish WIC in 1972, the program has provided nutrition education and vouchers for nutrient-rich food items to pregnant, breastfeeding and post-partum women, infants, and young children to promote healthy growth and development. Numerous studies have demonstrated that mothers who participate in the program have fewer premature births, a greater likelihood of healthy birth-weight babies, fewer infant deaths, and higher intake of key prenatal nutrients including iron, protein, calcium, and Vitamins A and C.

This isn't just important for women's wellbeing. It's essential for our nation's long-term health and economic prospects.

By John Conyers, Jr. and Gwen Moore

Dean of the U.S.. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Nutrition and care during the 1,000 days between conception and a child's second birthday are the biggest determinants of whether a child is able to lead a healthy and prosperous life. Poor nutrition and low birthweight have been linked to conditions including heart disease and diabetes. Infants and children who lack the nutrients WIC provides also lack absolute prerequisites for healthy brain development. It should therefore come as no surprise that international studies have shown that poor access to nutrition among young children can cost can a country 2-3 percent of GDP due to lower productivity.

Funding WIC is a proven way to fight poverty now and to invest in America's future.
That's why we recently took the lead in submitting -- with support from 116 Members of Congress -- a request to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture to provide $6.68 billion for the coming fiscal year. This funding level will help this program meet current and future caseload needs and ensure that millions of participants can maintain access to the scientifically appropriate WIC food package.

While some in Congress have recently sought to cut funding for WIC, we contend that this approach is both callous and counterproductive. With our country ranking poorlyin international comparisons for child and maternal health, proper funding for WIC is a matter of America's standing in the world. Domestically, it's a proven way to lower future health care costs, increase education attainment, and boost workforce productivity. All this expands the economy and shrinks future deficits.

Forty-five years after the Supreme Court took a stand against the summary denial of key safety net benefits, it's clearer than ever that programs like WIC are not only essential for families' survival but also for the nation's long-run health and prosperity.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Conyers: “Doc Fix” Protects Seniors, Children, and Community Health Centers

WASHINGTON – Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement after voting in support of H.R. 2, The Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which passed the House overwhelmingly with a final vote of 392-37:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“This bipartisan agreement will provide much-needed stability for patients, doctors, and hospitals, while ensuring funding for essential children’s insurance programs and community health centers.  Had Congress failed to act, doctors would have faced steep cuts in Medicare reimbursements and, accordingly, seniors with health coverage would have been left without care. For years, Medicare’s payments to healthcare providers have failed to keep pace with inflation, leading doctors around the country to refuse seeing Medicare patients.  Crucially, this permanent “doc fix” legislation protects all current beneficiaries from cost increases.

“Equally important to fixing Medicare’s broken payment system, today’s bipartisan agreement safeguards health investments for children and struggling families. The legislation includes a two year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) while avoiding the GOP’s desired funding cuts.  The legislation also includes $7.2 billion in funding over two years for the Community Health Center Program created under the Affordable Care Act.  Detroit has seven Community Health Centers that serve nearly 100,000 patients per year, 70 percent of whom are low-income. Without this funding, Detroit’s Community Health Centers would have been forced to turn away patients or even close their doors.”

“Having served as a champion for Medicare since voting for its creation in 1965, I strongly reject any attempts to shift the costs of care to struggling and vulnerable beneficiaries.  I supported this legislation because it contains important safeguards to protect people in need, and because it will help ensure that Americans—both young and old—maintain their access to quality healthcare.”

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Rep. Conyers Calls on DOJ to Investigate the Police-Involved Beating Of Floyd Dent

WASHINGTON– Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to formally investigate the police-involved beating of Floyd Dent, an unarmed African American man, which occurred in Inkster, Michigan.

On January 28, 2015, Inkster Police pulled over Floyd Dent after alleging he ran a stop sign.  Dash camera video shows Dent - a 57 year-old longtime auto worker with no criminal history – being pulled from his car by police officers, tackled to the ground, put in a chokehold, severely beaten, and tased by several officers while showing no signs of resistance to arrest. 

On Wednesday, Rep. Conyers participated in a meeting with the DOJ’s Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta, hosted by the NAACP Detroit chapter where a range of law enforcement issues were discussed.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

CONYERS PRAISES COMMUTATION OF SENTENCES, CALLS FOR SENTENCING REFORM

WASHINGTON - Today, House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement after the White House announced the commutation of the sentences of 22 individuals- each of whom had been convicted of drug offenses:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“I welcome and applaud the commutations of the sentences of these individuals.  Incarcerating people for unwarranted lengths of time serves no constructive purpose.  The President has recognized this, as has Attorney General Eric Holder, and I hope the Administration’s Clemency Project will continue to address the multitude of cases in which sentence reductions are appropriate.  Of course, the need to engage in such a broad review of sentences exists largely because our sentencing laws and policies, particularly for drug offenses, urgently need to be changed. 

“We need to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing and let judges impose appropriate sentences based on the facts and circumstances of each case, and we should eliminate the higher penalties for crack cocaine relative to powder cocaine offenses.  I am a cosponsor of H.R. 920, the ‘Smarter Sentencing Act,’ a bipartisan bill which would constitute a good first step at addressing these issues by reducing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and allowing for sentences below mandatory minimums for certain low-level offenders.  This bill is supported by over fifty organizations, including Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and the Sentencing Project.

“I am heartened that there is a growing, bipartisan recognition of the cyclical problem of overincarceration and I hope this will lead to much-needed sentencing reform during this Congress.”
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement on Net Neutrality

WASHINGTON - Today, during a full House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Wrecking the Internet to Save It? The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules,” Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) delivered the following opening statement:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“The Judiciary Committee has a central role in studying the issue of net neutrality and, more generally, competition on the Internet. As the Committee considers today the specific question of what impact the Federal Communications Commission’s latest Open Internet Order has on competition and innovation, we should keep several factors in mind.

“To begin with, whatever approach one uses to ensuring an open Internet, inaction is not an option.  There are real threats to net neutrality.
           
“As I have previously observed at hearings held on the issue of net neutrality in 2008, 2011, and 2014, there are many areas in the United States where consumers have the choice of only one or two broadband Internet service providers.  As a result, these broadband providers effectively function as monopolies or duopolies.  In turn, their control over the broadband access market can result in differential treatment of content depending on how much a content provider pays, whether the broadband provider also offers competing content, or if any other the financial incentives for discriminating for or against given content were present.

“The concerns that I have previously expressed have only become more problematic since then particularly in light of further acquisitions by broadband providers that may result in even less consumer choice, less innovation, higher costs, andmore power in the hands of fewer broadband providers.

“In light of this threat, I commend the Federal Communications Commission for its work in crafting a strong set of rules for ensuring an open Internet. Congress created the FCC to develop the specialized expertise to properly regulate the complex telecommunications industry in service of the public interest.  And, after a lengthy rulemaking period during which almost 4 million Americans and all industry stakeholders made their voices heard on this issue, the FCC has fulfilled that mandate with respect to preserving and promoting an open Internet. Rules to address net neutrality have the benefit of addressing potential threats to an open Internet before they fully materialize.

“Additionally, having a set of best practices enshrined in rules would provide certainty for industry.  The FCC’s net neutrality rules, therefore, must be given the opportunity to take root.

“I am particularly pleased that the FCC’s Open Internet Order contains key provisions that I and many others have long called for and that will help protect competition.  These include –

●          a rule preventing broadband providers from blocking or throttling Internet access or from imposing paid prioritization of Internet traffic;

●          a restriction prohibiting any other practices that unreasonably interfere with or disadvantage users’ ability to access broadband service or lawful content applications, or services; and

●          a requirement mandating disclosure to users of information concerning network management practices and any terms, conditions, or limitations on the broadband service.

“These measures are critical to protecting the virtuous cycle of innovation which net neutrality fosters, and which ensures both competition and innovation among broadband and content providers, to the ultimate benefit of consumers.

“Finally, enforcement of existing antitrust law as the exclusive or primary means of ensuring an open Internet would be insufficient. Under current antitrust law, there is relatively little that regulators can do outside the merger review context to address the conduct of a regulated industry such as broadband Internet service with respect to enforcing net neutrality principles.

“Through a series of decisions, the Supreme Court has limited the potential to successfully pursue claims under the Sherman Antitrust Act with respect to net neutrality.

“Moreover, exclusive reliance on antitrust enforcement is simply insufficient.  While having the benefit of a more nuanced and fact-specific approach to the problem, antitrust enforcement alone would also be a cumbersome, more limited, more resource-intensive, and after-the-fact way to develop a regulatory regime for net neutrality.

“Another potential approach would be for the Federal Trade Commission to use its authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to stop “unfair methods of competition.”

“Although I hold an expansive view of Section 5, to the extent that this approach goes beyond the scope of the Sherman Act or other antitrust laws it would be very controversial, as my friends on the other side of the aisle would be the first to note.

“Moreover, antitrust law is not sufficiently broad in scope as it fails to address the non-economic goals of net neutrality, including the promotion of innovation and the protection of free speech and political debate. This is why Former Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Representative Zoe Lofgren and I introduced bipartisan legislation back in 2006 to strengthen antitrust law to address net neutrality, in part because the FCC was doing too little at that time, in my view.

“I do not have that concern with the FCC’s latest Open Internet Order.  Rather, I congratulate them on their good work and welcome the Order’s full implementation.”

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House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Opening Statement on Patent Reform

WASHINGTON - Today, during a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet hearing on “Patent Reform: Protecting American Innovators and Job Creators from Abusive Patent Litigation,” Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) issued the following opening statement:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today’s hearing provides yet another opportunity to examine the issue of abusive patent litigation and why a targeted legislative approach is necessary.

“One of the first issues we must consider is how legislative proposals to stop abusive patent litigation can impact small businesses, the start-up ecosystem, and innovators. Small businesses and others who rely on patents require strong intellectual property protections. We must not weaken those rights.

“Our innovators – whether they create their inventions in their garages or basements or as a group in an incubation hub – recognize that their patents and the ability to protect them through enforcement in the courts is a critical factor in whether their businesses will be a success or a failure. Indeed, some angel investors and venture capitalists require ideas to be patented before investing.  But, they may very well be dissuaded from investing if there is a risk that a court will not uphold the validity of those patents or, at a minimum, there will be substantial litigation costs entailed.

“This means that fledgling entrepreneurs will never get off the ground and become a flourishing business employing thousands of Americans, such as Overstock, which is one of our witnesses today.

“Overly broad legislation could engender more rather than less litigation and weaken patent enforcement protections, thus discouraging investments in innovation.

“Instead, we should take a cautious approach and not push solutions – such as H.R. 9, the ‘Innovation Act’ – that may end up doing more harm than good to our start-up ecosystem. One way to stop abusive patent litigation is to address the problem of the extortionist use of demand letters.  So, I want the witnesses to discuss how we can curb the abusive problem of demand letters.

“Patent litigation opportunists exploit the patent process and patent litigation system.  In particular, they attack patents of weak quality in order to obtain quick settlements or to bleed the alleged infringers. Individual inventors and small businesses have to decide whether to risk incurring potentially overwhelming costs of litigation or enter into a settlement which could make them liable to attack by other abusive patent litigants.  We must find a way to stop this insidious problem that threatens the strong culture of innovation in our Nation.

“Finally, the Committee needs to conduct further hearings on the changing landscape affecting patents before we take any congressional action.

“While I applaud the Chair for holding a hearing last month on recent Supreme Court decisions in the patent arena, the Committee should also hold additional hearings on what actions other government stakeholders are taking in the patent arena.

“For instance, we should hear from Michelle Lee, the newly appointed Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to hear her views about how we should address abusive patent litigation. In addition, Director Lee could enlighten us about the conclusions from the Patent Quality Summit that her Office is hosting today and tomorrow. The Director could also update us on how her Office is implementing the America Invents Act.

“We should also hear an update from the Federal Trade Commission about its efforts to combat abusive patent litigation behavior.

“Further, the Judicial Conference could share its expertise at a hearing on the effectiveness of lower courts recently adopting model discovery orders or discovery guidelines that limit discovery in patent lawsuits.  The Conference could also inform us of the actions the Supreme Court is taking to eliminate Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 84 and its Form 18, which will lead to the higher pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal. It could also update us on other proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure aimed at achieving proportionality in discovery and promoting early and active judicial case management.

“These efforts may better address abusive patent litigation in a more targeted approach than the overly broad approach taken by the Innovation Act. Congress must respond to the problem of abusive patent litigation, but it should do so in a more balanced and effective approach that protects our Nation’s entrepreneurs and innovators.”
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