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Patent Reform Act stalls in the Senate

Why did the debate over patent reform create such odd bedfellows? Because, when it comes to money and business, ideals and politics go right out the window.

After years of heated debate and lobbying, the Patent Reform Act of 2007, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and was scheduled for a Senate vote this session, has been taken off the Senate's calendar. It can be revived, but its momentum has effectively fizzled.

Apparently, the Senate has better things to do with its time.

At this point, I don't wish to rehash the issues of, or my viewpoint on, the Patent Reform Act. Besides, as I've said, both sides in the debate were after only their own self-interests. Such is life in a capitalist society. (I think that's a good thing.)

What does fascinate me, though, are the strange alliances the debate over patent reform created. The Coalition for Patent Fairness--a group of more than 150 high-tech and financial-services companies that included Adobe Systems, Apple, Cisco Systems, eBay, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, News Corp., Oracle, SAP, Time Warner, and virtually all the big banks--supported and lobbied heavily for the bill.

In the other camp were the entire biotech and pharmaceutical industries, 3M, Caterpillar, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola, PepsiCo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, The National Venture Capital Association, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), The AFL-CIO, and a host of other labor unions and manufacturing associations.

"Greed is good," says Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), Wall Street Twentieth Century Fox Film

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

In addition, support for the bill wasn't as partisan as one might expect. Sixty Republicans and 160 Democrats voted for the House bill, while 117 Republicans and 58 Democrats voted against it. Not exactly homogeneous, but surely not partisan, either.

I couldn't help but wonder why patent reform is a rare exception to our increasingly bifurcated nation.

Is it because the issues are complex, and we, as a nation, don't do "complex" very well? Or is it that, when it comes to money and business, ideals and politics go right out the window? Yup, that must be it.

That's the beauty of capitalism. It breeds pure, unadulterated self-interest and greed. And while that sounds really nasty, it isn't. It's one of the characteristics that made our nation the most powerful on Earth.

What's all that got to do with patent reform? Not a thing. And that's the point.