As polls close on this Election Day, Cisco’s government affairs team is watching the results closely for implications on key policy issues, including patent reform.
Since the last federal elections in 2012, the company’s employee-sponsored political action committee has contributed over $519,000 to federal election campaigns and committees, according to the the campaign-spending website OpenSecrets.org. Cisco’s lobbying spend topped $2 million this year alone, with disclosure reports indicating that stalled bills on patent reform are a key target of the company’s lobbying activity.
With control of the U.S. Senate up for grabs, experts speculate that a Republican takeover could jumpstart legislation on patent reform, which aims to clamp down on so-called “patent trolls,” companies that buy up old patents in hope of a courtroom payday. This election cycle, the Cisco ePAC’s campaign spending tilted slightly in favor of Republican candidates overall. The ePAC also made equal contributions of $30,000 to each party’s national Senate campaign committee.
In March, Cisco was hit by a patent infringement suit for unspecified damages by a firm that had bought up old Nortel patents.
That patent suit was over network hardware, but experts say that intellectual property law will only grow in importance to SDN as the industry matures and consolidates. Since 2011, patent seekers have filed roughly 7,000 applications mentioning software-defined networking or network function virtualization. Some fear that patent trolls could stifle innovation by buying up swaths of those patents from struggling startups.
“The patent system is encumbered by out-of-date procedures, limited resources, and obsolete guidelines that result in the commonplace granting of overly-broad patents,” Cisco’s company website reads. A company spokesman acknowledged that patent reform was among Cisco’s top priorities on Capitol Hill, adding that the company engaged in a range of other policy issues as well.