In this issue:




On September 16th, at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, President Obama signed H.R. 1249, the “America Invents Act,” (P.L. 112-29) into law.  The act represents the most significant reform of the Patent Act since 1952, reforms that were a key recommendation of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Key elements of the “America Invents Act” include:

  • A fast track option for Patent Processing within 12 Months: Instead of an average wait time of almost three years, the Patent and Trademark Office will be able to offer startups an opportunity to have important patents reviewed in one-third the time – with a new fast track option that has a guaranteed 12-month turnaround. 
  • Reducing the current patent backlog: Under the Obama Administration, the patent backlog has already been reduced from over 750,000 patent applications to 680,000, despite a four percent increase in filings. The additional resources provided in the law will allow the Patent and Trademark Office to continue to combat the backlog of nearly 700,000 patent applications and will significantly reduce wait times.
  • Reducing litigation: The Patent and Trademark Office will offer entrepreneurs new ways to avoid litigation regarding patent validity, at costs significantly less expensive than going to court.
  • Increasing patent quality: The Patent and Trademark Office has re-engineered its quality management processes to increase the quality of the examinations and has issued guidelines that clarify and tighten its standards for the issuance of patents.  The legislation gives the USPTO additional tools and resources to further improve patent quality, and allows patent challenges to be resolved in-house through expedited post-grant processes.
  • Increasing the ability of American Inventors to protect their IP abroad: The new law will harmonize the American patent process with the rest of the world to make it more efficient and predictable, and make it easier for entrepreneurs to simultaneously market products in the U.S. and for exporting abroad.  The Patent and Trademark Office has also expanded work-sharing with other patent offices around the world to increase efficiency and speed patent processing for applicants seeking protection in multiple jurisdictions.

To review H.R. 1249, the “America Invents Act”, please visit the Library of Congress web site,, and search by bill number.

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related innovation issues for ASME.  He can be reached at:




On September 21st, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed three pieces of legislation: one aimed at improving pipeline safety; and, the other two delaying implementation of two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air pollution rules.

H.R. 2937, the Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act, passed the committee with unanimous support by a vote of 51-0. The legislation makes improvements to pipeline safety laws to ensure public safety and protection of the environment. The bill passed with an amendment from the bill’s authors, Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-MI), which made a number changes to the underlying text, inserting added safety benefits and clarifying federal oversight requirements.

H.R. 2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, was approved by a bipartisan vote of 36 to 14. The bill gives EPA 15 months to finalize its hazardous emissions standards, also known as maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards, for industrial boilers.

The third bill, H.R. 2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act, passed the full committee with a bipartisan vote of 33 to 12. The bill provides 15 months for EPA to finalize rules regulating air pollution from cement manufacturing facilities.

Additional information about the aforementioned bills can be found at:

To review one or all of the bills, go to, and search by bill number.

As reported in the September 19, Edition of Capitol Update, the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee approved H.R. 2845, the “Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011” by unanimous vote on September 8, and the bill was passed by the full House of Representatives on September 13. Negotiations between the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will commence soon, with late October as the target date for bringing a combined pipeline measure to the House floor for a vote. 

This follows action in the Senate from last May, when the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation marked up and approved S. 275, the “Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (PTSI Act).  Like the T&I version of the House bill, this legislation would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT) for fiscal years (FYs) 2011 through 2014. 

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at:




U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) -- all members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee – recently introduced a series of education bills to “fix” No Child Left Behind. The legislation would end some of the federal mandates that decide which schools and teachers are succeeding or failing while maintaining No Child Left Behind requirements for reporting student performance in reading, math, and science.

The legislation would address what the senators said were major problems with the law by giving states and local school districts greater flexibility to:

  • Improve state accountability systems;
  • Improve teacher and principal professional development programs;
  • Consolidate federal education programs to give state and local education leaders more freedom in meeting local needs; and,
  • Expand the number of charter schools.

The four bills are summarized as follows:

The Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments Act of 2011 (S. 1571), introduced by Senators Isakson and Alexander, would establish a national “college- and career-readiness” goal with accountability systems developed by states without interference by the federal government on state standards or assessments. It would eliminate the Washington-based Adequate Yearly Progress system and ask states to identify their lowest-performing five percent of schools. It also allows states to establish their own teacher licensure and certification requirements; maintains public reporting requirements; and, dramatically simplifies the Title 1 State plans to reduce paperwork and federal interference.

The Teacher and Principal Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 1567), introduced by Senators Alexander and Isakson, would help states and local school districts prepare, train, and recruit effective teachers and principals to improve student achievement. States and local school districts would be allowed to develop their own teacher and principal evaluation systems, as well as their own needs assessments to better pinpoint professional development for teachers and principals. It would maintain strong reporting requirements to empower parents and the community. It would also authorize the Teacher Incentive Fund to allow states and school districts to compete to find ways to pay teachers and principals more for teaching well and reduce paperwork through simplified Title II State plans.

The Empowering Local Education Decision Making Act of 2011 (S. 1569), introduced by Senators Burr, Alexander and Isakson, would streamline 59 programs into two flexible foundational block grants. It would put states and local school districts in charge by allowing them the flexibility to choose the programs and initiatives that meet their unique needs. The bill would also create the “Fund for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning” and the “Safe and Healthy Students Block Grant.”

The Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act 2011 (S. 1566), introduced by Senators Kirk, Alexander and Burr, would modernize the Charter School Program by encouraging the expansion of successful charter school models, streamlining the program to reduce administrative burdens and improving funding opportunities, allowing successful charter school management organizations and local education agencies to apply directly to the federal government, and encourages sharing of best practices between charter schools and traditional public schools.

The text of each of the bills is available at by searching by bill number..

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME.  She can be reached at:




Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank unveiled findings from the Economics and Statistics Administration’s (ESA) third and final report on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs and education at a recent Brookings Institution forum on advancing STEM education in the United States. “Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM” analyzes the demographic composition and educational background of STEM workers, looking at representation disparities within these critical fields that promote U.S. innovation and economic competitiveness. 

Findings suggest that across all racial and ethnic groups, higher college graduation rates are associated with higher shares of STEM workers, and these workers earn substantial wage premiums over their non-STEM counterparts, regardless of their background. Non-Hispanic Whites and Asians have much higher college graduation rates than Hispanics, non-Hispanic Blacks and other racial and ethnic groups (including American Indians and Alaska Natives), and are more prominently represented in STEM jobs.  With greater equality in educational attainment, the report finds that demographic disparities within the STEM workforce can be diminished, helping to boost STEM employment and U.S. leadership in technology and innovation.

Other key findings of the most recent report include:

  • Non-Hispanic Whites comprise the largest group of STEM workers, accounting for about seven out of ten STEM workers, which aligns closely with their share of the overall workforce;
  • Non-Hispanic Asians are most likely (42 percent) to graduate college with a STEM degree, while the propensities of other groups are all fairly similar (17-22 percent)
  • Half of all non-Hispanic Asian workers with STEM degrees have STEM jobs, compared to 30 percent of Hispanics and non-Hispanic Black and American Indian or Alaska Native workers;
  • One in five STEM workers is foreign born, of which 63 percent come from Asia; and,
  • STEM workers in all demographic groups, including the foreign born, earn more than their non-STEM counterparts. Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks receive a significantly larger STEM premium than do non-Hispanic Whites.

“Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM” is the third in a series of ESA reports focused on science, technology, engineering and math employment in the United States. The first, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future,” released in July, profiles STEM workers and the critical role STEM jobs play in advancing American innovation and competitiveness. The second report, released in August, “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation,” examines the gender disparity among STEM workers. 
The most recent report is available at:

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME.  She can be reached at:




The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has announced that the Agency will hold its third annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit from February 27 – 29, 2012 at the Gaylord Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C.  Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft; Fred Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx; and Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart; will join Secretary Chu and Director Majumdar as distinguished keynote speakers.

Now in its third year, the Summit is designed to unite key players from all sectors of the nation’s energy innovation community to share ideas for developing and deploying the next generation of clean energy technologies. The event will feature a technology showcase with more than 150 exhibits from ARPA-E-funded projects and applicants in areas such as grid-scale storage, power electronics, batteries for electric vehicles, building efficiency, advanced carbon capture and electrofuels. The showcase will also feature new ARPA-E programs such as rare earth alternatives, plant engineering for fuel applications, advanced thermal storage, network integration architecture for the electrical grid, and power electronics for PV applications. A wide range of other energy technologies and new topic areas will also be discussed at the Summit.

In addition to an expanded showcase, the 2012 Innovation Summit will once again feature America’s top businesses focused on developing energy technology.  The Summit connects top corporate businesses with clean energy researchers and entrepreneurs with the goal of building lasting partnerships for commercialization.  Some of last year’s corporate participants included Lockheed Martin, Dow, DuPont, Battelle and Bosch.

Additional speakers will be confirmed in the coming months. To register for the 2012 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit and for the latest news on the Summit program, please visit:

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at:




The U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the European Union's (EU) Smart Grid Coordination Group (SG-CG) recently announced their intention to coordinate on the development of Smart Grid standards, while emphasizing mutual goals and areas of focus. Both NIST and the SG-CG have mandates to coordinate the development of astandards framework for Smart Grids, which will be important to innovation in the electrical sector.

Although the concept of Smart Grid often connotes digital electric meters, the concept is actually about advanced electrical grids that attempt to predict and intelligently respond to the behavior, and actions, of all electric power users connected to it.  The smart grid also represents suppliers, and consumers, and should allow more choices regarding energy use and supply.  The new collaboration is meant to ensure that Smart Grid standards on both continents have as much in common as possible, so that devices and systems that interact with these grids can be designed in similar fashion. It also will promote the regular exchange of information regarding such issues as:

  • Legislation, regulation and other policies underpinning NIST and SG-CG work;
  • Respective work methods, work programs and time lines;
  • Standardization deliverables;
  • Testing and certification frameworks; and,
  • Cybersecurity requirements and technologies.

NIST and the SG-CG have outlined areas for future collaboration in a joint white paper, available at

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at:




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