Patent Reform Escapes the House, Back to the Senate

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On June 23, 2011, the House voted 304 to 117 to approve H.R. 1249. The approved bill differed from the bill passed by the House Judiciary Committee, and bears a new title, “The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.” If the bill can garner approval from the Senate and the President, it would constitute the first major overhaul of the patent system in decades.

The House took up patent reform in March of this year after the Senate passed S. 23, “The America Invents Act,” with overwhelming bipartisan approval. The House version of patent reform passed yesterday contains a number of provisions that differ from S. 23, including an altered funding mechanism for the Patent Office (Section 22), clarification of the prior user rights provision (Section 5), and a formal ban on inventions relating to human organisms. Additionally, although the version of the House bill that left the Judiciary Committee contained a provision clarifying the period for filing an application for patent term extension, this provision was struck by amendment prior to adoption of the bill by the House. Both versions of patent reform, however, would determine priority for patent rights on a “first to file” basis as opposed to the current “first to invent” standard. This transition would bring United States patent law into alignment with the patent laws of every other major industrial country on this fundamental issue.

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