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Senate Approves Patent Reform Bill

by Glenn Hess
March 14, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 11

The Senate last week gave overwhelming approval to legislation that would overhaul the U.S. patent system for the first time since 1952. The Senate voted 95-5 to pass the America Invents Act (S. 23), which would shift the U.S. to the “first inventor to file” patent rights system used by all other industrialized countries from the current “first to invent” system. Supporters say the first-to-file system will make the process simpler, more certain, and less expensive. But the bill does provide a one-year grace period to protect academics and other inventors who disclose their inventions before filing for a patent. It also allows the patent office to set its own fees and bars congressional appropriators from diverting patent fees to other government programs. The legislation was endorsed by the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies and chemical manufacturers, as well as by academic groups such as the Association of American Universities. The White House also supports the bill. “Creating new jobs and new opportunities in a fiercely competitive world demands policies that encourage and support American innovation and ingenuity,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. The debate now moves to the House of Representatives.


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