July 22, 2024

House Nearing Completion of Patent Office Overhaul

WASHINGTON — A legislative overhaul of the United States Patent and Trademark Office moved toward completion in the House on Tuesday when members of the two important committees agreed to keep the office subject to annual appropriations but to end for the first time the diversion of patent fees to other uses.

The agreement between leaders of the House Judiciary and Appropriations committees clears the way for the bill, H.R. 1249, to be brought to the House floor as soon as Wednesday, when other amendments also will be considered.

The bill generally updates the process for challenging patents and would change the patent system to one that awards a patent to the first inventor to file a specific claim.

Currently, the first person to invent something has patent priority, whether or not he is the first to file an application.

The financing agreement received conditional support from the sponsor of a similar Senate bill that passed by a wide margin in March.

The White House added its cautionary backing to the agreement, although it noted that the final bill might need “additional direction” to ensure adequate financing for the patent office.

“After six years of working towards patent reform, we are near the finish line,” Lamar S. Smith, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday.

Members of the appropriations committee were reluctant to support a proposal that would make the patent office self-funding, leaving it outside the annual appropriations process.

The compromise calls for any collections of fees in excess of the annually appropriated budget for the patent office to be deposited in a reserve fund solely for the patent office.

The specific language, however, says that the House will have to separately authorize the use of any part of the reserve fund.

The Office of Management and Budget said that the provision “does not by itself ensure” access to the reserve fund.

“The administration looks forward to working with Congress to provide additional direction” to provide “timely access to all of the fees collected,” the O.M.B. statement said.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and who was the primary sponsor of a similar patent bill, said that the compromise language on a reserve fund “would be a concrete step in the right direction,” if it is “coupled with a commitment by the House Appropriations Committee to provide the Patent and Trademark Office with access to the excess fees it collects each year.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=7b367c565946dcf8f7da3e2c8bc8d87e

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