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Madam President, I wish to thank the chairman of the committee for his work on this patent bill. I still have a few small problems with it, but I am extremely grateful for his consideration of our amendment. Most people don't understand there are no tax dollars taken from the general fund for the Patent Office. It is all fees paid when you file a patent or a trademark or a copyright. Unfortunately, over the last 10, 15 years, $800 million of those fees have not been left at the Patent Office. They have been taken and used somewhere else. So when you pay a fee for a patent, that money isn't going to pay for the examination of the patent.
Right now, we find ourselves with 718,000 patents waiting for first action. If I file a patent today, what we will see is that 26 months from now my patent will have first action--the first reading by an examiner.
If we want to create jobs and stay on top of the world in terms of innovation, we cannot allow that process to continue. So what the amendment does is say we are not going to take the money people use to pay for a patent application and spend it somewhere else; we are actually going to spend it on patent applications. That is what it was set up for.
Quite frankly, it is immoral to take money for a specific purpose for advantaging an American company or inventor or a university and not apply that money for the intended purpose under the statute. Although this is controversial, most Americans would think, if you are paying $10 on a toll road, the money is going to keep the toll road up. Yet we haven't been doing that with the Patent Office.
We are in trouble not because of our Patent Office but because we have not enforced intellectual property rights owned by Americans around the world. So as we work on getting a patent bill and blending it with whatever the House passes, it is as important--again, I thank the chairman because he was kind enough to have a hearing on the intellectual property for us, in terms of its enforcement.
There are two key points for American innovation to bring jobs to America. One is when you get a good idea and have an ability to get it patented and can defend the patent. The other side of that is to enforce that patent throughout the world with our own Justice Department, in terms of our State Department and in terms of the intellectual property rights.
It is amazing how much of our intellectual property is being stolen by China today. I wish to relate a conversation I had with their Secretary of Commerce--their equivalent to ours--in China 3 years ago. I asked him about intellectual property rights. He was bold in his statement to say: We are not going to honor them. We are a developing nation and you would not have honored them either--even though they are a signatory to the World Trade Organization. It is important we understand whom we are dealing with--people who will cheat and steal intellectual property from America. Fixing the patent apparatus will help us get there, but it is just as important to have tough laws on our books that create sanctions on nations that do not honor intellectual property.
Again, this is a simple, straightforward, moral response to an immoral act: collecting fees for something and not spending it on that, which has put us behind the curve. This will bring us back. We have a wonderful new Director, over the last 18 months, in the Patent Office. It is being run better than ever. They are catching up. But last year we took $53 million of the fees that were for patents and spent it elsewhere. What this amendment does is stop that.
It may come to a time in this bill that we allow the Patent Office to set their fees. It will come to a time when we have to say: Wait a minute. You are charging too much. You have to be more efficient.
We don't do anything with oversight. We still have the oversight capability of all the Appropriations Committees. We have the ability to change this in the future in terms of their fee setting. If we do the proper oversight, we will spring forward with tremendous new technology that is protected and enable that capital expenditure that was spent to get that technology to flourish in terms of American jobs.
Again, I thank the chairman. He worked with me judiciously. It has been a pleasure to work with him. I thank him for his efforts on my behalf and that of the American inventors in this country.
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