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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1908, Patent Reform Act of 2007

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 1908, PATENT REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - September 07, 2007)

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Mr. WELCH of Vermont. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 636 and ask for its immediate consideration.

The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:

H. Res. 636

Resolved, That at any time after the adoption of this resolution the Speaker may, pursuant to clause 2(b) of rule XVIII, declare the House resolved into the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1908) to amend title 35, United States Code, to provide for patent reform. The first reading of the bill shall be dispensed with. All points of order against consideration of the bill are waived except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI. General debate shall be confined to the bill and shall not exceed one hour equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary. After general debate the bill shall be considered for amendment under the five-minute rule. It shall be in order to consider as an original bill for the purpose of amendment under the five-minute rule the amendment in the nature of a substitute recommended by the Committee on the Judiciary now printed in the bill. The committee amendment in the nature of a substitute shall be considered as read. All points of order against the committee amendment in the nature of a substitute are waived except those arising under clause 10 of rule XXI. Notwithstanding clause 11 of rule XVIII, no amendment to the committee amendment in the nature of a substitute shall be in order except those printed in the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution. Each such amendment may be offered only in the order printed in the report, may be offered only by a Member designated in the report, shall be considered as read, shall be debatable for the time specified in the report equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent, shall not be subject to amendment, and shall not be subject to a demand for division of the question in the House or in the Committee of the Whole. All points of order against such amendments are waived except those arising under clause 9 or 10 of rule XXI. At the conclusion of consideration of the bill for amendment the Committee shall rise and report the bill to the House with such amendments as may have been adopted. Any Member may demand a separate vote in the House on any amendment adopted in the Committee of the Whole to the bill or to the committee amendment in the nature of a substitute. The previous question shall be considered as ordered on the bill and amendments thereto to final passage without intervening motion except one motion to recommit with or without instructions.

Sec. 2. During consideration in the House of H.R. 1908 pursuant to this resolution, notwithstanding the operation of the previous question, the Chair may postpone further consideration of the bill to such time as may be designated by the Speaker.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Vermont is recognized for 1 hour.

Mr. WELCH of Vermont. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart). All time yielded during consideration of the rule is for debate only.

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. WELCH of Vermont. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H. Res. 636.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Vermont?

There was no objection.

Mr. WELCH of Vermont. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H. Res. 636 provides for consideration of H.R. 1908, the Patent Reform Act of 2007, under a structured rule. The rule provides 1 hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee. The rule makes in order and provides appropriate waivers for five amendments: a bipartisan manager's amendment, three Republican amendments, and one Democratic amendment.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1908 is a necessary bill and landmark legislation. The last time that our patent laws had been substantially updated was 1952, over a half century ago. Much, obviously, has changed in the United States and the world in those 50 years, and that is quite an understatement. Unfortunately, the U.S. patent law has failed to keep up.

Before I discuss the merits of the underlying bill, I must commend Chairman Conyers, Subcommittee Chairman Berman and Ranking Member Mr. Smith for their tireless work on this bill. It has not been easy to make the reforms that are so intricate and complex in such a complicated system, but these gentlemen worked hard with their committee and did so admirably, bringing to us a patent reform bill that is going to move America forward.

I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge the tremendous contribution of Senator Leahy, who happens to be someone I am particularly proud as he is the senior leader of our delegation here in Congress. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he spent years working on the patent system and has become a driving force behind getting this legislation to the floor.

All of us, I believe, in this House see this bill as major progress in reflecting a commitment to the protection and support of the Nation's intellectual property. This system was built to sustain and protect the nuts and bolts of the American economy, our ideas and innovations.

The legislation does enjoy very strong bipartisan support. Both Ranking Member Smith and subcommittee Ranking Member Coble, who have done great and hard work, are cosponsors. It is the product of 4 years of hearings, debates, negotiations, and compromises. Since 2001, there have been over 21 hearings on patent issues at the subcommittee level, and the subcommittee chairman and ranking member sought input from, among others, the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Solicitor General, National Academy of Sciences, and businesses ranging from high tech and biotech companies to traditional manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies, as well as from our university community and from labor.

H.R. 1908 reforms our outdated patent system, which currently encourages patent speculation, increases litigation, often harms small inventors and impedes innovation.

First, the legislation moves the United States into a pure first-to-file patent system. Right now the United States is literally the only major industrialized country to retain the first-to-invent system. This change from first-to-invent to first-to-file will inject clarity and certainty into the process and relieve the U.S. system of some extremely burdensome requirements such as protracted interference proceedings often costing up to a million dollars to determine which of many applicants deserves a patent and detailed record keeping. Both of these often disadvantage smaller inventors who might not have the resources to initiate such proceedings.

This change to a first-to-file system puts the U.S. in sync with every other industrialized country. Greater harmonization is obviously going to make it easier for U.S. inventors to secure patent rights in other countries as international patent protection becomes increasingly important to their ability and the ability of United States inventors to compete on a level playing field.

Next, this legislation makes important improvements to the patent system by which patents can be reexamined. By providing for reexamination of issued patents, H.R. 1908 eliminates the ability to intentionally ``game the system'' by speculating on the issuance of very poor-quality patents, nothing added to the intellectual capital of this country, but used as a device to increase private gain. This provides a streamlined alternative to costly patent litigation. This ability to have a quality check on patents that have already been issued is crucial to the integrity of the patent system as patents of questionable value can stifle innovation.

Companies around the country are much like some companies that operate in Vermont, including IBM, which has been a leader in the number of issued patents for the past 14 years in our State. They were awarded in 10 years 3,621 patents in the U.S. in 2006; 360 of those, fully 10 percent, came from the IBM office in Essex Junction, Vermont. That is 10 percent of their total patents from Vermont alone. They have been in business for decades, and improving the quality and security of the patent system is extraordinarily important to them, and obviously to other individuals and companies large and small around our country.

This bill also allows third parties to submit documents relevant to the examination of a patent application. This provision addresses the growing concern that patents have been issued on inventions that were publicly known and in prior use to the filing of the application. This is particularly important in the newer areas of technology in fields that do not yet have a fully well-developed tradition of publishing findings such as computer systems and software and business methods.

Finally, this bill makes some crucial improvements to the calculation and apportionment of damages. H.R. 1908 allows for the reasonable royalty calculations that more accurately reflect the value of any invention that is being infringed. Our patent system is far too important to be behind the times. Quality patents must continue to be issued. They must continue to be protected for those who have legitimately created a new invention.

This legislation is a huge step in modernizing this system for decades of American innovation to come. I urge my colleagues to support this rule and the underlying bill.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WELCH of Vermont. Mr. Speaker, I close by making two comments. Number one, this bill was the product not just of exhaustive hearings by the subcommittee on a bipartisan basis. It's really been the work of a couple of Congresses.

The patent reform system hasn't been changed in any significant way for literally over a half a century, and the changes that have occurred in our economy in electronic communications, in telecommunications, on software, on biotechnology, on every field that has produced wealth in this country have been extraordinary, yet the patent system has been stuck in 1952 mode.

The process that the chairman, Mr. Berman, the ranking member, Mr. Smith, and others have had to go through to try to accommodate the legitimate concerns of the inventor community, of the corporate community, and the complexities of that have been extreme.

This amendment that is being presented to you reflects an open process, not an open amendment with anything and everything on the table, but the product of an open process where everybody who had a concern was actually heard, and the best effort was made to accommodate them directly with specific legislation in the bill, in the manager's or in the amendments that were offered.

So the committee members, on a bipartisan basis, with Mr. Berman and Mr. Smith, have done everything possible to accommodate the concerns of the inventor community, the corporate community, our modern economy and the representatives in this body who are standing up for their constituents.

Secondly, there was some assertion that this is an anti-inventor bill. That is absolutely wrong. This is a bill that is being endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences, by many in the university community, and by others who have, as their whole motivation, the expansion of knowledge and then the implementation of the benefit of that knowledge through a patent system.

So the committee has done an open process which has brought us to this point, and it has proposed changes that are 50 years in the making, that is going to strengthen and expand the rights of our patent community.

Mr. Speaker, I urge a ``yes'' vote on the rule, House Resolution 636.

I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.

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