July 14, 2024

House Passes Patents Bill Approaching Global Norm

The legislation also takes steps to help the underfunded United States Patent and Trademark Office deal with a backlog of 1.2 million pending applications that forces inventors to wait three years to get a decision.

The vote was 304-117, closer than the 95-5 vote by which a similar bill cleared the Senate in March. The two chambers still have to reconcile the differences in their bills, which are supported by the White House, major business groups and leaders from both parties who have hailed it as a measure that could create jobs.

“This legislation modernizes our patent system to help create private sector jobs and keep America on the leading edge of innovation,” Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said.

Before getting to a final vote, House supporters had to overcome challenges from opponents who contended that the legislation violated the Constitution and would make it more difficult for individual inventors to prevail in disputes with large corporations.

There was also strong opposition to a provision that would allow financial institutions to challenge patents issued on business methods, like systems to process checks. The opponents said the provision amounted to a bailout for banks, but Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Judiciary intellectual property subcommittee, said business method patents, a fairly recent phenomenon, were “a fundamental flaw in the system that is costing consumers millions each year.”

An amendment to remove the section concerning the business method patents was defeated 262-158.

The most significant change brought about by the bill would put the United States under the same system for patent applications used by Europe and Japan, which favor inventors who file their patent applications first. Currently the United States operates on a first-to-invent system that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith of Texas, said was “outdated and dragged down by frivolous lawsuits and uncertainty regarding patent ownership.”

A chief opponent of the change, John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat and former Judiciary Committee chairman, said the bill would “permit the Patent and Trademark Office to award a patent to the first person who can win a race to the patent office regardless of who is the actual inventor.”

But Mr. Smith said that for a $110 fee an inventor could file a provisional application that would allow a year to prepare a formal application. He said it could cost $5 million for legitimate inventors to defend themselves against unwarranted lawsuits.

The Senate and House will also have to work out differences on another major element of the bill, how to finance the patent office.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4087bd370718c8a433192278e7a7645c

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