Patent Reform On The Move | April 25, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 17 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 17 | p. 11 | News of The Week
Issue Date: April 25, 2011

Patent Reform On The Move

Intellectual Property: House panel advances bill to reform patent process
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: patent reform, PTO
Smith
Credit: Courtesy of Lamar Smith
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Smith
Credit: Courtesy of Lamar Smith

Legislation that would overhaul the nation’s patent system took another step toward enactment on April 14 when the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee gave strong bipartisan approval to a reform measure that has the backing of big chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

The bill, H.R. 1249, was approved by a vote of 32-3 and would align the U.S. with other industrialized nations that use a “first to file” system, which awards patents to the inventor who filed an application first, rather than allowing a fight over who actually invented something first.

It would also allow the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) to set its own fees and prevent Congress from diverting the revenue raised by those fees to other unrelated government programs.

Supporters say the bill will help ensure that the patent office has the resources it needs to hire more examiners and upgrade its technology. PTO has been struggling to deal with a huge backlog of more than 700,000 applications.

“This important legislation is long overdue. The last major patent reform was nearly 60 years ago,” said Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Texas), committee chairman and the bill’s chief sponsor. “Since then, American inventors have helped put a man on the moon, developed cell phones, and launched the Internet. But we cannot protect the technologies of today with the tools of the past.”

The measure, which will likely be considered by the full House later this year, is similar to a bill that easily passed the Senate on March 8 and has the backing of President Barack Obama (C&EN, March 14, page 30).

The bill also sets rules for patents to be challenged after they are granted through a PTO administrative procedure. Advocates say the new postgrant review process will allow disputes involving patent quality and scope to be settled without expensive litigation.

The legislation is supported by a diverse array of stakeholders, including the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, whose members include Dow Chemical, DuPont, Pfizer, Eli Lilly & Co., and Novartis.

“Our coalition believes the legislation reported, with overwhelmingly broad bipartisan support, will improve the operations of PTO and procedures for obtaining and enforcing patents,” says Gary Griswold, the group’s director.

 
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