Right before President Obama outlined his new jobs plan in a speech to Congress on Thursday, lawmakers handed him an economic bill that both parties are celebrating.
The America Invents Act, which enacts sweeping changes to the American patent system, was approved by the Senate for the final time and it now goes to the president for his signature. In his speech Thursday, Obama called the bill "the kind of action we need."
Although it eventually passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, the America Invents Act was six years in the making. It was sponsored by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, in the Senate, and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican, in the House.
Despite some lingering concerns and criticism, many businesses and lawmakers praised the bill as a way to help businesses develop more products, hire more workers, and get more money moving.
"The America Invents Act is the kind of reform that is necessary to set America back on track toward a prosperous future," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee.
David Hill, president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, called the bill a "momentous accomplishment" and a good example of a bipartisan effort to stimulate the economy.
"For a cutting-edge industry like software, operating under a 60-year-old patent system has sometimes felt like sailing with an anchor overboard," said Robert Holleyman, president of the Business Software Alliance. "Today's passage of the America Invents Act is like cutting the rope. It marks a momentous change that will help accelerate technology innovation."
Companies like Google, Dell, IBM, Apple, Cisco, and others also applauded the bill's passage.
Innovation Alliance, which represents smaller tech companies, was more muted in its response. The bill was criticized by some in Congress for favoring larger businesses. Nevertheless, Innovation Alliance President Brian Pomper said he appreciated lawmakers' efforts and his group would work to help implement the bill.
The America Invents Act left some controversial issues unsolved, including efforts to give the Patent and Trademark Office full control of the fees it collects. Pomper said Innovation Alliance, for one, will continue to lobby to keep Congress from using patent fees for other programs.