Historic US Senate Decision re Patent Reform

In a landslide 95 to 5 decision, the US Senate has passed the Historic Patent Reform Bill (S. 23). Amongst other provisions, the Bill calls for adoption of the first-inventor-to-file patent system used by most patent regimes around the world. Supporter of the bill hope that the decision to adopt first-to-file over the current first-to-invent system will lower costs and complexity of patent disputes.

Other sections of the Bill that were adopted include provisions for the establishment of an USPTO fee setting authority and measures to ensure that patent filing fees fund the Patent Office rather than other government programs. Authorities have also been set up to oversee supplemental examinations and to allow the USPTO to set up satellite offices such as that proposed in Detroit.

Changes affecting prosecution of US patents include provisions for third party submissions of prior art for pending applications, the creation of a special post-grant review of business method patents and the establishment of a USPTO authority to prioritize examination of inventions of national importance, such as clean energy technologies.

Primary author of the Reform Bill, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said of the decision “Reforming the nation’s antiquated patent system will promote American innovation, create American jobs. It will grow our economy.”  US President Barak Obama has also commended the decision, stating “Creating new jobs and new opportunities in a fiercely competitive world demands policies that encourage and support American innovation and ingenuity. So I’m pleased that, on a bipartisan basis, the Senate has passed the most significant patent reform in over half a century.”

More hotly debated provisions of the Bill including injunctive relief, damages calculations and willfulness were dropped in part because of changes in the law made by the judiciary.

We will continue to monitor these developments closely and will keep our readers informed of any updates.

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