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Blog Post | July 16, 2021

Revolver Spotlight: Chris Coons

Intellectual PropertyPatentPatent and Trademark Office
Revolver Spotlight: Chris Coons

Rumors that Delaware Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) has had a hand in nominating the new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director are extremely worrisome given Coons’ coziness with the Big Pharma industry and willingness to vote against his own party to benefit large corporations. Coons has a long record of proposing and passing legislation (often with far-right Republicans) to benefit Big Pharma companies, at the expense of consumers and small businesses. While harmful to the general public, Coons’ legislation has directly benefited his family’s medical device manufacturer, enriching himself. His record and blatant disregard for consumer welfare should exclude him from any conversations about executive branch personnel.

Here is an overview of Coons’ corporate record:

  • As a Senator, Coons supported rewrites of intellectual property law that favored large corporations, including his family company, the medical device manufacturer W. L. Gore & Associates. Coons’ stepfather Robert W. Gore ran the company while Coons worked as an in-house counsel responsible for the company’s federal government relations work. According to his most recent personal financial disclosure, Coons owns between$1 million and $5 million in stock in the company. In 2019, Coons voted for medical device tax breaks that W.L. Gore & Associates lobbied for and benefited from, and in 2020, Coons helped pass a pro-corporate chemical research bill that the company spent $360,000 lobbying for.
  • Coons had a long-standing financial and legislative relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. In 2020, Coons was the third highest recipient of pharmaceutical industry donations, with more than $124,000 in campaign contributions. Several of these donors included controversial Big Pharma monopolies like AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson.
  • Coons has consistently supported Big Pharma-backed legislation, including the America Invents Act, which benefitted Big Pharma companies’ stranglehold on intellectual property, and opposed reforms to lower drug prices by importing drugs from Canada.
  • Coons worked with far-right Republican Senators to propose legislation that would benefit large corporations. In 2015, he proposed the STRONGER Act with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), which would have strengthened intellectual property monopolies and boasted the backing of industry groups including Medical Device Manufacturers Association, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers Association, Conservative for Property Rights, and the American Conservative Union.
  • Coons and Republican Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) worked together during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure pharmaceutical lobbyists were able to advocate on IP law proposals, including proposals to keep publicly funded research on the COVID-19 vaccines as private intellectual property. In 2020 he argued to the industry group Intellectual Property Owners Association that COVID-19 should be used as a “sword” to push for additional pro-Big Pharma intellectual property laws.
  • Coons voted with Republicans to confirm Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, despite the vast majority of Democrats voting against his confirmation. Azar was the president of the Big Pharma company Eli Lilly and Company, best known for its monopolistic control over insulin.

This Revolver Spotlight will be continuously updated. Any additions made after initial publishing will note the date added.

PHOTO: “Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)” by Third Way is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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