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Spending Concerns Delay Patent-Reform Vote Spending Concerns Delay Patent-Reform Vote

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Technology / TECHNOLOGY

Spending Concerns Delay Patent-Reform Vote

photo of Josh Smith
June 22, 2011

Lingering fallout from a new manager’s amendment again delayed consideration of sweeping patent-reform legislation on Wednesday.

The America Invents Act was scheduled for floor debate on Wednesday morning. But the manager’s amendment, which strikes a compromise between the bill’s sponsors and House appropriators, sparked a debate over spending, delaying consideration of the bill until the evening.

The House voted to move ahead with debate on the bill, but a spokeswoman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said a final vote is now expected on Friday. The latest snag stems from a House Rules Committee decision to waive so-called “cut-go” rules, which require Congress to cut spending before allocating any new funds.

 

The waiver is the first of its kind since Republicans took control of the House in January and adopted the cut-go rules. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the proposed change to the patent bill amounts to a $717 million unfunded mandate.

But Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., said the waiver is a technicality because the patent legislation does not cost more money; rather it changes the way the money is classified.

The manager’s amendment, proposed by the bill’s sponsor, Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, establishes a separate fund for excess fees from the Patent and Trademark Office. From that fund, Congress could allocate money back to the office.

In the bill as currently written, PTO would have full control over the fees it collects. But House appropriators said the provision could undermine Congress’s oversight authority. The negotiations over the compromise language delayed consideration of the bill for a week or so.

While placating top Republicans in the House, the compromise has not won support from everyone.

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., took to the floor to decry the amendment as a half-baked solution.

“The bad news for those pursing patents … is that we’ve failed to resolve some of the most pressing problems,” Polis said. “The patent office can’t actually use the funds to examine and award patents. So I would ask, what’s the point?”

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