WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation on Wednesday to reform the patent system.
Like a bill that passed the Senate on March 8, Smith's bill allows more public feedback on applications to prevent bad patents from being approved and gives the patent office more control over its finances to allow it to tackle the backlog of patent applications.
It would also grant patents to the first person to file, rather than the first to invent, among other changes.
Supporters of the bill have said the first-to-file measure would make it easier for companies to apply for patents in multiple countries.
"Unfortunately, our outdated patent system has become a barrier to innovation and invites lawsuits from holders of questionable patents seeking to extort millions of dollars from companies," Smith said in a statement. The bill has the support of the House majority leader.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate voted 95 to 5 to approve a similar bill. Senator Patrick Leahy, who shepherded that bill through the Senate, said he welcomes the introduction of Smith's bill.
"We have been working on a bicameral, bipartisan basis for six years now, and the Senate bill ... was structured on the original patent reform bill introduced by Chairman Smith in 2005," said Leahy.
President Barack Obama supported the Senate bill, saying after it passed that it was "the most significant patent reform in over half a century."
The reform's supporters said they hope the bill would help the patent office clear out a backlog of more than 700,000 applications which are awaiting approval or rejection.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)