A Legislative Breakthrough on Patent Reform

By February 26, 2010Briefly Legal, General, Innovation

Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL) announced that a new agreement to patent reform legislation had been made.

Sen. Leahy’s Patent Reform Act of 2009, (S. 515) passed through the Judiciary Committee thanks to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s deft ability to bring parties on both sides of the controversial damages provisions together to agree on compromise language –- language that the NAM was supportive of because it ensured that no one sector would get a bonanza at the expense of another business sector.

Despite that success, S. 515 got hung up on other less high-profile, but just as important issues. After nine months of negotiations, another agreement (that contains the same compromise language on damages) appears to be in the making. While the official amendment-in-the-form-of-a-substitute language has yet to be released, we’re told that there’s been substantial movement on a number of issues.

While litigation reforms are very important, key to all manufacturers’ concerns is how will the US Patent & Trademark Organization fare – will there be an end to the diversion of their fees into the general treasury? Will USTPO Director David Kappos have the ability to make rules and set new fees? What’s being done to improve patent quality and decrease the time it takes to have a patent issued? The National Academy of Sciences issued a report in 2004 highly critical of how resources were being allocated to the USPTO, and offered a number of fixes that would not only strengthen the USPTO, but in the long run, strengthen our nation’s manufacturers’ ability to innovate.

As soon as we know what the new bill language looks like, we’ll make sure that the NAM’s members find out. More news as it comes in over the transom

(Marc-Anthony Signorino is technology director for the National Association of Manufacturers)

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