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Senate Leaders Urge Quick Passage of Patent Bill Senate Leaders Urge Quick Passage of Patent Bill

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Technology / TECHNOLOGY

Senate Leaders Urge Quick Passage of Patent Bill

A cloture vote on a compromise version of a patent-reform bill from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has been scheduled for Tuesday.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

photo of Josh Smith
September 6, 2011

Ahead of a key vote on Tuesday evening, Senate leaders urged members to fall in line and quickly approve expansive patent reform legislation, which has already passed both chambers in Congress.

The Senate is considering changes made to the bill, the America Invents Act (H.R. 1249), by the House of Representatives. A cloture vote on a motion to proceed is scheduled for Tuesday evening and a final vote could come as early as Thursday.

Despite some vocal criticism by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., among others, Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle are urging their colleagues to send the legislation to President Obama without further amendments.

 

“Although this is important legislation, it has seen plenty of debate in Congress,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a floor speech on Tuesday. “It is time to move on to other job-creation measures.”

Reid praised the bipartisan support for the patent bill and he called it “a down payment on the aggressive jobs agenda” planned for this fall. “It is time our patent system became a tool to spark innovation instead of something that holds companies back from creating jobs,” Reid said.

The bill changes the U.S. patent system by altering the Patent and Trademark Office’s fee system and creating a “first-to-file” system, under which patents would be awarded to the first person to file an application.

If passed, the measure would be the first major change to the patent system in about 60 years. For the past decade, efforts to reform an overwhelmed patent system have bogged down and failed.

Under pressure from congressional appropriators, the House partially revoked a portion of the bill that would have given PTO full control of the fees it collects and prevented Congress from raiding those fees for other programs.

Coburn, who pushed for a ban on such “fee-diversion” in the Senate version, has said he will fight to get the language back in the legislation. It is still unclear what other amendments, if any, are in store.

But Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who sponsored the Senate bill, is urging members to pass the America Invents Act without any more amendments.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., joined Leahy and Reid in calling for the legislation to be approved as-is and sent to the president’s desk. He called the bill “long overdue” reform that will make the patent system clearer and fairer.

Large businesses seeking protections from frivolous patent lawsuits support the bill.

The Coalition for Patent Fairness, which represents companies such as Google, Apple, and Dell, wrote lawmakers on Tuesday to say six years of debate was plenty. “We believe that H.R. 1249 is an important step forward to advance and harmonize our patent system in such a manner to allow us to continue to compete in the international marketplace," the letter reads.

The White House has signaled support for both Senate and House versions of the bill.

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