Congress To Take Up Patent Reform Bill

Extrait de: House Passes Patents Bill Approaching Global Norm,By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, The New York Times, June 23, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted on Thursday to rewrite patent law for the first time in 60 years to give inventors a better chance of obtaining patents in a timely manner and to bring the United States patent system in line with those of other industrialized nations.

U.S. Patent Bill

The legislation also takes steps to help the underfunded United States Patent and Trademark Office deal with a backlog of 1.2 million pending applications that forces inventors to wait three years to get a decision.

The vote was 304-117, closer than the 95-5 vote by which a similar bill cleared the Senate in March. The two chambers still have to reconcile the differences in their bills, which are supported by the White House, major business groups and leaders from both parties who have hailed it as a measure that could create jobs.

“This legislation modernizes our patent system to help create private sector jobs and keep America on the leading edge of innovation,” Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said.

Before getting to a final vote, House supporters had to overcome challenges from opponents who contended that the legislation violated the Constitution and would make it more difficult for individual inventors to prevail in disputes with large corporations.

There was also strong opposition to a provision that would allow financial institutions to challenge patents issued on business methods, like systems to process checks. The opponents said the provision amounted to a bailout for banks, but Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Judiciary intellectual property subcommittee, said business method patents, a fairly recent phenomenon, were “a fundamental flaw in the system that is costing consumers millions each year.”

An amendment to remove the section concerning the business method patents was defeated 262-158.

The most significant change brought about by the bill would put the United States under the same system for patent applications used by Europe and Japan, which favor inventors who file their patent applications first. Currently the United States operates on a first-to-invent system that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith of Texas, said was “outdated and dragged down by frivolous lawsuits and uncertainty regarding patent ownership.”

A chief opponent of the change, John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat and former Judiciary Committee chairman, said the bill would “permit the Patent and Trademark Office to award a patent to the first person who can win a race to the patent office regardless of who is the actual inventor.”

But Mr. Smith said that for a $110 fee an inventor could file a provisional application that would allow a year to prepare a formal application. He said it could cost $5 million for legitimate inventors to defend themselves against unwarranted lawsuits.

The Senate and House will also have to work out differences on another major element of the bill, how to finance the patent office.

The patent bill will be at the top of the agenda when the Senate reconvenes in September. The first major overhaul of the patent system since 1952 has already passed both the Senate and the House by wide margins, and the Senate will be trying to agree to the similar House version and send it to the president for his signature.

The main intent of the patent bill is to streamline a system that has resulted in a backlog of 1.2 million pending patents and ensure that the Patent and Trademark Office has adequate funding. It also would switch the United States from the "first-to-invent" system now in effect to the "first-to file" system for patent applications used by all other industrialized countries.

Supporters say the first-to-file system:

·         Creates certainty about patent ownership and reduce costly litigation.

·         Job creation will be a happy by product, they predict.

·         Patent reform will be a boost to intellectual property industries that account for more than a half of U.S. exports,

said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

·         "These industries also provide millions of Americans with well-paying jobs."

Smith's Democratic partner in the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, agreed: "This is a jobs bill when our economy needs it most."