SAN JOSE, Calif. – Patent reform is back on the agenda in the U.S. Congress. A bipartisan group of Senators will introduce patent reform legislation next week, and a member of the House of Representatives said patent reform will also be brought up there in the current session.
Congress has put patent reform on the table in nearly every sessions of Congress since 2006. However due to highly divided and controversial nature of the issues involved no bill has come close to passing to date.
The Patent Reform Act of 2011, which will be introduced in the Senate on Jan. 25, mirrors draft legislation announced last March. It aims to change the U.S. to a so-called first-inventor-to-file system and provide limits on infringement damages.
The draft bill also aims to change to post-grant review process, provide for a so-called inter partes review and redefine willful infringement. In addition, it aims to help the U.S. patent office retain more of its fees.
An array of companies and lobbying groups in the electronics industry has taken opposing stances on the draft bill. The Senate's draft bill has the support of the National Association of Manufacturers, the United Steelworkers, the National Venture Capital Association and the American Association of Universities.
Some claim the patent reform legislation fails
to address the key issues. Congress should focus "on policies to reduce the 34 month backlog at the [patent office], thereby creating new jobs that are currently stuck on the shelves waiting for action," said Brian Pomper, executive director of the Innovation Alliance which includes members such as Qualcomm and Tessera.
"Adequately staffing and resourcing the [patent office] would be the single best patent based step to encourage economic innovation and job creation at time when more of both is sorely needed," Pomper said in a press statement. "Any legislative approach which leads to less certainty about patents or reduces the value of American patents would be a step backward," he said.
The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform--a lobbying group with more than 50 members including 3M, General Electric and Texas Instruments—said it supports the bill. "This legislation will ensure our nation’s patent system will promptly provide inventors with high quality patents and protections needed to spur innovation, develop new products, and create jobs," said Bill Mashek, the group's president in a press statement.
The Senate's move marks the fourth consecutive time it has introduced a broad patent reform bill. Last year the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill but it never came up for a full Senate vote. In the previous session the House passed a bill but the Senate could not reach agreement.
“The Patent Reform Act of 2011 is the product of years of careful consideration and compromise," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a longtime advocate of the legislation. "This will be the first piece of legislation considered by the Judiciary Committee this year, and I hope the Senate will act promptly on this job-creating bill," he said in a news statement.