Patent Reform Debate Continues

Posted Thursday, March 3, 2011.

The “America Invents Act of 2011” is still being debated in the Senate. Among the amendments that have been made to the bill so far is an end to “fee diversion.”

The Patent and Trademark Office generates a large pool of revenue, and some of that cash has gone to fund other federal government activities. But the PTO needs more money to increase its modernization, and to hire more examiners to help reduce the backlog of unexamined applications for patents.

The end to the fee diversion means the PTO will be able to keep and spend more of the money it takes in. One eventual outcome may be that the three-year time period it generally takes from the time a non-provisional patent application is filed until a patent is issued will be reduced.

As I previously discussed in this blog, a key provision of the act is transforming our patent system to a “First to File” system, harmonizing our patent law with most of the rest of the world in this respect. It was thought that Senator Feinstein of California would introduce an amendment stripping the change to “First to File” from the bill, but it hasn’t happened yet and may not.

Yesterday’s amendment featuring the move to let the PTO keep more of the revenue it generates by ending fee diversion shows the Senate is serious about making progress on this bill. Patent reform has not made it through Congress in previous sessions, but it seems likely we will get some movement in 2011. Of course, the House of Representatives will need to pass its own bill and then the two bills must be reconciled, but Senator Leahy, the primary sponsor of the America Invents Act of 2011 seems to believe that all will happen quickly.

More to come…

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