House Passes Denham Bill to Protect Intellectual Property Rights

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives today passed bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to protect the intellectual property rights of organizations which create pipeline safety regulatory documents.

“This common sense, bipartisan fix to last Congress’s Pipeline Safety Act will help to protect the intellectual property rights of our pipeline safety regulatory organizations,” said Rep. Denham. “It prevents overseas competitors from having free access to intellectual property while maintaining the transparency intended by the 2011 bill. I am pleased to see it pass the House and look forward to having it signed into law.”

The bill, H.R. 2576, was introduced on June 28, 2013 and passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee via voice vote on Wednesday, July 10, 2013. It is co-sponsored by Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Corrine Brown (D-FL).

This legislation modifies requirements relating to the availability of pipeline safety regulatory documents on the Internet. It is a correction of an unintended consequence of the bipartisan Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011.

Last Congress, Section 24 of the Pipeline Safety Act included a good faith provision intended to make the pipeline safety regulations and guidance of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration more transparent. The Act previously required any document or portion thereof incorporated by reference into the new regulations and guidance of PHMSA to be made available free of charge on the Internet. An unintended consequence of the language in the Act from 2011 was that organizations which develop standards relating to many different technical issues could have intellectual property rights infringed upon as their standards were made available free online. The law as written would allow overseas competitors free access to intellectual property.

This legislation corrects the prior unintended consequences and preserves intellectual property rights of organizations while still meeting the goals of a transparent government with free access to the standards for non-commercial purposes.

Specifically, the bill allows for standards to be made free of charge but strikes “on an Internet website,” which allows more leeway to comply with the law. It also gives the industry, and PHMSA, extra time to comply by making the law effective three years from enactment instead of one year. Lastly, this legislation limits the applicability of the provision strictly to pipeline safety regulations.