Senate Approves Historic Patent Legislation

Posted: Sep 08, 2011 6:40 PM

On Thursday evening, only an hour before President Obama’s address to the nation before a joint session of Congress on jobs and the economy, the Senate passed the first major overhaul of the United States Patent System in nearly 60 years by a margin of 89-9.

Although patent reform has been on the minds of small and large businesses for years, lawmakers believe its passing will help the private sector create jobs and stimulate economic growth. The White house has indicated that President Obama will sign the legislation.  National Journal reports:

The bill will provide the PTO with the tools to “effectively expedite application processing, drive down the backlog of unexamined patent applications, and issue higher-quality patents that are less likely to be subject to a court challenge—all without adding a dime to the deficit,” said PTO Director David Kappos.

The bill's Senate sponsor, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., fought off three 11th-hour amendments that could have sent the sweeping legislation back to the House.

In a floor speech earlier in the day, Leahy said leaders in the House of Representatives told him that they would reject the bill if the Senate reinstated a provision that gave the Patent and Trademark Office full control of the fees it collects.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., pressed for the language to be restored, but Leahy and other leaders were intent on passing the bill out without new changes and Coburn’s amendment was tabled. “The time to put aside individual preferences and ideological purity is upon us and we need to legislate,” Leahy said.

And in his remarks, Kappos seemed content with the bill as-is, saying it “substantially improves USPTO’s current funding situation.”

Both the Senate and the House had previously approved the bill by wide margins, but the House made several changes that made some Senators unhappy. In the end, the concerns were not enough to derail the bill.

The Senate also rejected two amendments which would have stripped language clarifying PTO application deadlines and establishing a review process for patents on business methods. The sponsors of those amendments said the provisions, added in the House, were inappropriately tailored to help specific businesses.