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March 01, 2011

Senate Passes Patent Overhaul Bill

The Senate passed patent legislation March 8 that was hailed by President Obama as the “most significant patent reform in over half a century.”

“This long-overdue reform is vital to our ongoing efforts to modernize America’s patent laws and reduce the backlog of 700,000 patent applications,” Obama said, adding that the bill, S. 23, “won’t just increase transparency and certainty for inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses,” it will “help grow our economy and create good jobs.”

The ABA, which does not have policy on the overall legislation, does support provisions that would institute a “first-inventor-to-file” rule for obtaining a patent – an action that would replace the United States’ current and more complex “first-to-invent” standard that relies on “proof-of-invention dates.”

The United States stands alone in the world in using the “first-to-invent” standards, and the change, according to the ABA, would advance the objective of greater international patent law harmonization.

The association also supports language added as an amendment to the bill during Senate debate that would eliminate fee diversion and allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to keep the fee revenue it generates from patent applications for its own use.

S. 23 will now be sent to the House, where House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is drafting a House version of the legislation.

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