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Members of Congress Continue To Push Forward On Patent Bill
By Andrew Ramonas | June 23, 2022 7:13 pm

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) continued to press the case for patent reform in editorials published today in The Hill, while Congress Daily reported today that Senate Judiciary Committee staffers are meeting with key players about the 2009 Patent Reform Act which passed the panel in April.

The bill, which was introduced by Leahy and Hatch, is the third attempt by Congress to overhaul the patent system since 1952. Leahy said the legislation would put new safeguards on the patent application system to prevent people from receiving patents for inventions that that they did not create, improve the process to challenge contested patents and implement better guidelines for courts to use when assessing damages in patent cases. Leahy aides and Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) staffers reached a “sticking point” last week over how the legislation should handle a challenge to a patent’s validity after it is issued, according to Congress Daily.

Leahy and Hatch said the United States will soon fall behind in the global economy without patent reforms.

Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in his editorial here:

If we are to maintain our position at the forefront of the world’s economy, if we are to continue to lead the world in innovation and production, and if we are to continue to benefit from the ideas of the most creative citizens, then we must have a patent system that produces high-quality patents, that limits counterproductive litigation over those patents, and that makes the entire system more streamlined and efficient.

Reforming our patent system will stimulate the American economy through structural changes, rather than taxpayer dollars. At a time when we are taking significant steps to restore and revitalize our economy, Congress should do its part and pass the Patent Reform Act without delay.

Hatch said in his editorial here:

(W)e have not made significant updates to the patent system since 1952. Put another way, the last time the patent system was significantly changed, the structure of DNA had not been discovered; gasoline was around 27 cents a gallon; and we had not yet gone to the moon. Cell phones, MP3 players, GPS navigators and the Internet were far beyond anyone’s imagination. Technology has surpassed what anyone would have ever imagined back then, but unfortunately, our patent system has not been able to keep up with the growth in American innovation. The courts have interpreted the law in light of change, but that piecemeal process has left areas of the law unclear and out of balance — leaving some important, unresolved gaps.

But the bill has its critics. The Innovation Alliance and the Manufacturing Alliance on Patent Policy, which represent many manufacturing and high-tech businesses, have said the legislation doesn’t do enough to stop abuse during post-grant reviews, according to Congress Daily. The Patent Office Professional Association also expressed concern over the burden that new procedures would put on the Patent Office, which has experienced cutbacks from a downturn in the amount of applications filed, Congress Daily said.

The House Judiciary Committee is still working on its own version of the patent reform bill. The House legislation is backed by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas), but some House members still aren’t sure about the bill which has many of the same features as the Senate bill.

Reps. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) wrote editorials in The Hill today criticizing the House bill.

Kaptur said the legislation would weaken patent protections and help powerful technology companies.

She said:

Our patent system is the finest in the world. There are patent concerns that Congress can and should address, starting with the high cost of fees for inventors who hold less than three patents. However, this legislation addresses fictions of global corporations and the proposed solutions are special fixes that benefit these few giants at the expense of everyone else.

Manzullo said the bill would unnecessarily pit different economic sectors against another and would not have equal benefits for all inventors.

He said:

I have had serious concerns with previous patent reform efforts. I have successfully worked with the House Judiciary Committee to develop lower fees for small inventors and protect them from the premature release of their patent. Unfortunately, contentious issues in patent reform keep re-emerging.

Members of Congress should not be forced to choose between constituents in various economic sectors on an issue as complex and important as patent reform, especially during a recession. Rather than repeating failed tactics from the 110th Congress, the House and Senate Judiciary committees should strive for real consensus.

Conyers reassured House members that the legislation wasn’t set in stone.

He said in his editorial here:

(A)ll stakeholders should understand that the House patent reform bill, H.R. 1260, will undergo further changes. I assure you that whatever changes we put forward will not be designed to harm or help any particular industry, but to preserve a patent system that all inventors and companies, no matter their size, can use and rely on.

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