IEEE Home Search IEEE Shop Web Account Contact IEEE IEEE

IEEE-USA Home: Public Policy: Eye On Washington

What's New @ IEEE-USA - Eye On Washington

Vol. 2012, No. 1 (10 January 2012)


2011 Legislative Summary: Patent Law Overhaul Bill: HR 1249 — PL 112-29


Senators Call for FCC Flexibility in Spectrum Legislation


OSTP Releases Federal STEM Education Portfolio

New Center for Excellence Fuels Prize to Help Modernize Tools for Patent Examination

Net Neutrality Rules Formalized


IEEE-USA Coordinates with Federal Officials to Promote Small High-Tech Businesses




Seeking 2013 Government Fellows Applications
Linking Science, Technology & Engineering Professionals with Government

Each year, IEEE-USA sponsors three government fellowships for qualified IEEE members. The fellows — chosen by the IEEE-USA Government Fellows Committee and confirmed by the Board — spend a year in Washington serving as advisers to the U.S. Congress and to key U.S. Department of State decision-makers. Known as either a Congressional Fellowship or an Engineering & Diplomacy Fellowship, this program links science, technology and engineering professionals with government, and provides a mechanism for IEEE's U.S. members to learn firsthand about the public policy process while imparting their knowledge and experience to policymakers. The application forms for 2013 are available online. (State; Congressional) The deadline for 2013 is Friday, 16 March 2012. (View upcoming webinar.)

Webinar: What Does it Take to be an IEEE-USA Government Fellow?
Presenters: Rebecca Taylor and Sherry Gillespie (archived, held on 29 November 2011)


2011 Legislative Summary: Patent Law Overhaul Bill: HR 1249 — PL 112-29

After a years long effort in congressional offices and committee rooms, Congress cleared and the president signed bipartisan legislation in September to overhaul federal patent law. The America Invents Act changed the procedures for issuing patents, and for challenging the validity of patents once they have been issued in hopes of making the US patent system faster and more efficient.

Bill sponsors, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.)and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), dropped some contentious language that had stalled the bill in previous Congresses, such as provisions on calculating damage awards in patent infringement lawsuits. They compromised on other aspects of the bill, such as creating a new process for reviewing patents. The new law also alters the basis for awarding patents from a first to invent principle to a first inventor to file system. In another major change, it allows the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to set its own fees as a way of giving it the resources to clear out a mounting backlog of patent applications. However, the legislation does not give the USPTO direct access to all the fees it collects, leaving appropriators with the power to decide how much revenue the office could keep. Instead, the money is put into a specially created account, from which Congress can appropriate all or a protion of the collected fees. The Senate-passed version of the bill would have allowed the PTO to directly keep and spend all fees collected from patent applicants, an issue which put the two chambers at odds over the bill. In the end, the House-passed version of the bill prevailed and the money now goes into the "limbo" account.


The Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R.3261) has thus far moved quickly and enjoyed strong support in the House and Senate Judiciary committees. But opponents are rallying to fight against the bill - despite wide bipartisan support in both chambers. SOPA aims to crack down on online piracy of music, movies and consumer products.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Jan. 24 on invoking cloture on a motion to take up its version of the bill (S 968), sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt). Meanwhile, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), wants to complete a committee markup on HR 3261 as quickly as possible in January, with an eye toward bringing the measure to the floor. This is Leahy's and Smith's second effort to push through a major bill related to intellectual property. The President signed into law an overhaul of US patent law (PL 112-29) in September 2011.

Movie studios, record labels and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pushing for quick passage of SOPA. The law would give the Justice Department new tools to move against foreign-based websites that contain infringing content, including the ability to seek court orders to block the domain names of the sites from domestic Web users. Technology companies, public policy advocates, and some Republicans and Democrats in both chambers oppose the legislation as an overbroad proscription for the problem.

The House Judiciary Committee began marking up Smith’s bill in December, in a lengthy session that stretched over two days without conclusion. A handful of panel members, led by Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), have been trying to change the bill — or, at least, slow it down — with a slew of amendments.

“I don’t think it has broad support on the House floor,” said Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “It’s too controversial.”

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) urged Smith to hold a hearing with technical experts - the technical term that he used in the hearing was "nerd" - on the domain-blocking provisions before advancing the bill. Some experts have argued that the provisions could endanger cybersecurity. 2011 Chair of IEEE-USA's Communications Policy Committee Eric Burger has set up a subcommittee, with mebmers from both the Communications Committee and the Intellectual Property Policy Committee - to deal with the issue. While IEEE-USA has not taken a position on this issue, we hope to be able to provide the much needed technical expertise.

Technology companies and public policy advocates have been trying to foster a grassroots campaign of Internet users against the piracy legislation. In the Senate, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced competing legislation (S 2029) centered around using the International Trade Commission to police online piracy by foreign websites. Wyden is vowing to slow the Senate's consideration of Leahy’s bill.

“We’ve been fighting above our weight for quite some time,” Wyden said. “I think that there is a growing recognition that it doesn’t make sense to fight copyright infringement by doing significant damage to the Internet.”

In a 14 December 2011statement, Smith said that technology-sector opponents of his bill were “spreading lies about the legislation in an attempt to stall efforts by Congress to combat foreign rogue websites.”

“Companies like Google have made billions by working with and promoting foreign rogue websites so they have a vested interest in preventing Congress from stopping rogue websites,” Smith added.

Senators Call for FCC Flexibility in Spectrum Legislation

Several senators urged passage of legislation that gives the Federal Communications Commission flexibility in conducting spectrum license auctions and designating spectrum for unlicensed uses. The spectrum measure will be on the menu of revenue offsets for congressional leaders as they negotiate a yearlong payroll tax cut extension.

“In the rush to fill the Treasury’s coffers with revenue from spectrum auctions, we must not neglect the fertile ground for innovation that unlicensed spectrum offers and the subsequent economic value it produces,” wrote John Kerry (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA), along with Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). Kerry, Warner and Snowe serve on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The Obama administration has been pushing Congress for legislation to help repurpose 500 megahertz of spectrum, mostly licensed to television broadcasters and government agencies, for commercial wireless broadband by the end of the decade. In December, the House passed a yearlong payroll tax cut extension (HR 3630) that included spectrum language that constrained the FCC’s ability to set conditions on new spectrum licenses and limited its ability to designate more spectrum for unlicensed uses. A bipartisan spectrum bill (S 911) that approved by the Senate Commerce Committee does not include the same restrictions. If spectrum provisions are to be included in a prospective payroll tax measure, House and Senate lawmakers will need to overcome disagreements on the FCC-related language, as well as on provisions related to fostering a new communications network for public safety officials.


OSTP Releases Federal STEM Education Portfolio

In the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, Congress called upon OSTP to oversee creation of a detailed catalogue of all Federal STEM education programs. In response, OSTP released The Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Portfolio, a comprehensive listing of STEM education investments curated by Federal agencies. The report is a product of the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (CoSTEM) of the National Science and Technology Council, the cabinet-level interagency group that coordinates Federal science and technology policy and is administered by OSTP.

The newly released Portfolio—the most detailed inventory of the Federal STEM education portfolio ever compiled—reveals that the Federal government draws upon a remarkably wide range of unique assets to support STEM education. This range includes astronauts who serve as inspiring “STEM ambassadors,” a majestic array of ecologically diverse National Parks that host a variety of experiential learning opportunities, and a nationwide network of STEM professors who receive Federal research funds and host visiting students and teachers in their labs.

Development of the Portfolio was a cooperative process between the CoSTEM—whose membership consists of agency leaders—and agency staffers who run the many Federal STEM education programs.  To achieve the highest possible level of scientific rigor, the committee developed a precise definition of STEM education and a detailed survey instrument to collect pertinent data about programs. Among the Portfolio’s essential findings:

  • The overall Federal investment in STEM education for fiscal year 2010 was $3.4 billion, or about 0.3 percent of the Nation’s total education budget of $1.1 trillion.
  • About one-third of that $3.4 billion directly benefits students from groups currently underrepresented in STEM, addressing a major Obama Administration goal to develop a STEM workforce that reflects the full diversity of the Nation.
  • About one-third of the $3.4 billion funds 113 investments that are focused on various agencies’ specific workforce needs, and two-thirds is spent on 139 broader STEM education investments.
  • Of the broader investments, 87 percent of which are funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education:
    • 104 involve STEM-related internship opportunities;
    • 35 have as their primary objective the provision of training and certification in preparation for entry into the STEM workforce;
    • 99 either require or encourage public-private partnerships, and;
    • 24 support STEM teachers.

The report notes that these statistics cannot by themselves tell the story of how to increase the effectiveness of the Nation’s STEM education efforts. CoSTEM is currently considering additional factors to inform the development of a 5-year, cross-agency, STEM education strategic plan for achieving a more targeted portfolio of STEM education investments, as called for in the COMPETES Act. That plan will address a variety of potential approaches to improving the Federal STEM education portfolio, including consolidating programs, creating joint solicitations across agencies, and developing structures and procedures for sharing program data and performance measurement and evaluation tools.

New Center for Excellence Fuels Prize to Help Modernize Tools for Patent Examination

16 DEC: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in cooperation with the newly unveiled Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (COECI) launched the USPTO Innovation Challenge, a $50,000 prize to develop new algorithms to aid in patent examination. Approximately half-a-million U.S. patents are filed by inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses each year.  The Challenge is part of a broader USPTO endeavor to modernize the information technology used by the Office’s patent examiners.

Net Neutrality Rules Formalized

On November 20 the Federal Communications Commission’s, or FCC, new net-neutrality rules went into effect, formalizing the principles of network freedom that have dictated Internet access since the information age began. What is this you say? Read a primer on the basic tenets of net neutrality here. The FCC’s new net-neutrality rules outline three basic points of compliance for Internet Service Providers, or ISPs:

  • “Transparency. Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their broadband services.”
  • “No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services.”
  • “No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.”

Despite the new rules, net-neutrality proponents were dismayed upon the announcement due to apparent leniency. The rules cover only the bare minimum of net neutrality and provide leeway for disclosed network-management practices, in addition to allowing mobile broadband exemptions in many cases. The exemptions led to at least one public-interest lawsuit complaining the rules are “too weak” on mobile broadband protections.

Opponents of net neutrality continue to argue that innovation will suffer if ISPs can not maintain de facto control of the Internet. Their arguments against the rules are weak. The Internet did not spring from the free market, nor has private industry solely shouldered the financial obligations of creating and maintaining network infrastructure: The Internet we know today emerged from the ARPANET project, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the United States federal government has heavily invested in broadband infrastructure through programs such as the Broadband Initiatives Program. This is not to say ISPs should have no right to maintain their networks and ensure they are working to the benefit of themselves and their consumers—indeed, this is very argument for the flexibility regarding network management practices clearly outlined in the regulations. Those who support net neutrality say that the potential for innovation is available because of the unique openness enabled by net neutrality. An open Internet allows innovative entrepreneurs to be able to reach a vast audience of potential customers at minimal cost and compete in established niches. Driven purely by consumer interest and demand, small startups like eBay, Amazon, and Google were able to flourish based on the quality of their products. If ISPs are permitted to charge web-content providers for different tiers of service, small businesses, independent artists, and those who can’t afford preferential treatment will be left behind.

Net neutrality is both a technically and ideologically complex issue where both sides have clear agendas. Only time will tell if innovation suffers or prospers.


IEEE-USA In The News

Recent IEEE-USA Testimony, and Letters to Congress & Administration

IEEE-USA Press Releases

Public Policy Priority Issues(112th Congress, 1st Session, 2011) -- Committees of IEEE volunteers draft IEEE-USA's public policy priorities, as well as all of IEEE-USA's position statements, and IEEE-USA's Board of Directors approves them. IEEE members interested in becoming involved with the development of the priorities, or working towards their implementation, should contact the committee in which they are interested.

Public Policy Position Statements on issues deemed to be of concern to or affecting IEEE's U.S. members. The statements make specific public policy recommendations for the consideration of Congress, the Executive Branch, the Judiciary, representatives of State and Local Government, and other interested groups and individuals, including IEEE members.

IEEE-USA E-Books - To see the latest E-Books, visit our online catalog which includes the 2010 IEEE-USA Salary & Fringe Benefits Survey, the 2010 Profile of IEEE Consultants and two new GovDocs.

Have an Idea For an IEEE-USA E-Book? - If you've got an idea for an e-book that will educate your fellow IEEE members on a particular topic of expertise, e-mail your e-book queries and ideas to IEEE-USA Publishing Manager Georgia Stelluto.

IEEE-USA Coordinates with Federal Officials to Promote Small High-Tech Businesses

In December, IEEE-USA representatives met with federal officials to discuss ways U.S. IEEE members can better take advantage of programs that promote small high-tech businesses. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, secured the committee hearing room for the discussion and helped find federal speakers. Representatives from the Commerce Department Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Export-Import Bank and the United States Trade Representative attended. Jim Jefferies, 2011 IEEE-USA vice president for government relations, and Terry Wong, 2011 chair of the IEEE-USA Entrepreneurial Activities Committee, led the contingent of IEEE entrepreneurs.

Jefferies pointed out that a start-up technology-based business is different than a traditional business.

"A high-tech company has intellectual property and may not have a fully developed product or firm customer commitments," Jefferies said. "It has a different risk profile."

Participants agreed to five major action items:

* IEEE-USA would disseminate information on government resources available to high-tech entrepreneurs

* Federal officials will conduct some Webinars through IEEE-USA

* Will investigate having IEEE members serve on federal advisory councils

* Sharing information on local Export-Import Bank programs with IEEE members

* IEEE-USA and the Export-Import Bank have agreed to work together to improve access to the bank's resources

Links to IEEE-USA and federal resources for high-tech entrepreneurs.


2012 State of the State Speeches

1 - Schedule and Full Text
2 - Schedule of 2012 state legislative sessions
3 - Republican Power in 2012 -
After a contentious political year, Republicans may moderate their approach - If you like to keep up with what's going on in state politics, provides a good overview of the activities in all 50 state legislatures.'s annual report on state trends and policy, "State of the States 2009" is now available. The report is full of helpful graphics and maps, in addition to reports on the most significant developments in the 50 states.


DIRKSEN GRANTS: CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH AWARDS DEADLINE: All proposals must be received no later than March 1, 2012.
The Dirksen Congressional Center invites applications for grants to fund research on congressional leadership and the U.S. Congress. The Center, named for the late Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen, is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization devoted to the study of Congress and its leaders. Applications are accepted at any time, but the deadline is March 1 for the annual selections, which are announced in April. A total of up to $35,000 will be available in 2012.

The competition is open to individuals with a serious interest in studying Congress. Political scientists, historians, biographers, scholars of public administration or American studies, and journalists are among those eligible. The Center encourages graduate students who have successfully defended their dissertation prospectus to apply and awards a significant portion of the funds
for dissertation research. Applicants must be U.S. citizens who reside in the United States.

The awards program does not fund undergraduate or pre-Ph.D. study. Organizations are not eligible. Research teams of two or more individuals are eligible. No institutional overhead or indirect costs may be claimed against a Congressional Research Award.

National Science Foundation Recent opportunities can be found here, including:

Innovation Corps Program  (I-Corps) - The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon fundamental research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. In order to jumpstart a national innovation ecosystem, NSF is establishing the NSF Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps). The NSF I-Corps' purpose is to identify NSF-funded researchers who will receive additional support - in the form of mentoring and funding - to accelerate innovation that can attract subsequent third-party funding. The purpose of the NSF I-Corps grant is to give the project team access to resources to help determine the readiness to transition technology developed by previously-funded or currently-funded NSF projects.  The outcome of the I-Corps projects will be threefold: 1) a clear go/no go decision regarding viability of products and services, 2) should the decision be to move the effort forward, a transition plan to do so, and 3) a technology demonstration for potential partners. 

Dear Colleague Letter on Supplements for Student to Participate in the FY 2012 Sandia National Labs NINE Summer Scholars Program - The National Science Foundation (NSF) has entered into a collaboration with the Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) to enable graduate students to spend the summer of 2012 working at the SNL National Institute for Nano-Engineering, NINE (, under the mentorship of SNL researchers.. In order to facilitate this collaboration, relevant programs in the NSF Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) plan to provide small supplements to existing awards. It is expected that approximately 10 supplements will be made in the range of $10,000 to $12,000. The awarded supplement is designed to provide funding for student salary during the program, fringe benefits, travel costs, and other supplies & materials needed for the research project.

AAAS GrantsNet Express - A weekly American Association for the Advancement of Science listing of science funding opportunities from private foundations and organizations, and new U.S. government grant announcements in the sciences. AAAS will send GrantsNet by e-mail to AAAS member subscribers.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Solicitations - The majority of EERE financial opportunities are for business, industry, and universities. - The President's 2002 Fiscal Year Management Agenda established as a central storehouse for information on over 1,000 grant programs. The site provides access to approximately $400 billion in annual awards. Most agencies, such as the DOE's Office of Science, use only to list all funding opportunities. Other funding opportunities of interest include the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and NASA.

AAAS: Communicating Science, Tools for Scientists & Engineers - Scientists and engineers who foster information-sharing and respect between science and the public are essential for the public communication of and engagement with science. Although traditional scientific training typically does not prepare scientists and engineers to be effective communicators outside of academia, funding agencies are increasingly encouraging researchers to extend beyond peer-reviewed publishing and communicate their results directly to the greater public. In response to this need in science communications, the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology has partnered with the National Science Foundation to provide resources for scientists and engineers, both online and through in-person workshops to help researchers communicate more broadly with the public.

California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) Fellowships

The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the 2012-2013 California Science and Technology Policy Fellowships based in Sacramento. The S&T Policy Fellowship, a unique one-year professional development opportunity, provides the selected fellows with hands-on experience working with the California Legislature to incorporate science and technology into public policy. Eligible applicants will be Ph.D.-level (or equivalent) scientists and engineers who have a sincere interest in California current events, the state legislative process, and a strong desire to learn how policy decisions are made. Deadline for submission of applications is February 29, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. PST. More information is available at


European Commission

NOV 30: The European Commission presented the proposal for the legislative decisions on HORIZON 2020 - The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for 2014 to 2020. HORIZON 2020 will be the EU financial instrument to implement the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth, and the Innovation Union flagship initiative, particularly for the completion of the European Research Area (ERA). The new program will form a common strategic framework that will encompass all the currently separate EU research and innovation funding schemes - the EU RTD Framework Programme, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) - in one single program. It will provide seamless support from basic and frontier research to innovation and the market.

Center for American Progress

The Corporate R&D Tax Credit and U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness: Gauging the Economic and Fiscal Effectiveness of the Credit Investment in research and development is a significant driver of technological progress and economic growth, particularly in high-wage developed countries. The United States spends more than any other nation in the world on research and development, or R&D, but its relative position (measured by the share of such investment in national income) has been falling even as other countries increase their investments in research.

White House

The Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Portfolio

Government Accountability Office

International Space Station: Approaches for Ensuring Utilization through 2020 Are Reasonable but Should Be Revisited as NASA Gains More Knowledge of On-Orbit Performance. GAO-12-162,December 15. Highlights

Congressional Research Service

Circular A-76 and the Moratorium on DOD Competitions: Background and Issues for Congress

Patent Reform: Issues in the Biomedical and Software Industries

Follow-On Biologics: The Law and Intellectual Property Issues

Industrial Competitiveness and Technological Advancement: Debate Over Government Policy

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): Policies, Programs, and Funding

Keystone XL Pipeline Project: Key Issues

Top of Page | What's New@IEEE | IEEE-USA

What's New @ IEEE-USA's Eye on Washington highlights important federal legislative and regulatory developments that affect U.S. engineers and their careers. In addition to this biweekly newsletter, subscribers receive legislative bulletins and action alerts on IEEE-USA priority issues, including: retirement security, employment benefits, research & development funding, computers and information policy, immigration reform, intellectual property protection and privacy of health/medical information.

You can change your IEEE-USA Eye on Washington subscription status by using the forms at

Copyright © 2011, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.  Permission granted to copy for personal use or for non-commercial republication with appropriate attribution.

IEEE prohibits discrimination, harassment and bullying. For more information visit

 Copyright 2014 IEEE

Terms & Conditions - Privacy and Security - Nondiscrimination Policy - Contacts/Info