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Question of the Week: Patent Reform


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Question: How did you vote on H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act, which would make major changes to our patent system?

Answer: Although I did not support every provision of H.R. 1249, I supported it because it includes many important provisions that will streamline the patent application process.

Innovation is the backbone of the American economy. Industries that rely on Intellectual Property rights, including patents, account for only 5 percent of American businesses, but they generate 40 percent of increased economic productivity and half of all U.S. exports.

Unfortunately, there is a serious backlog at the patent office. As of May, there was a backlog of more than 703,000 patent applications, with more than 157,000 that have been pending more than 16 months without receiving a first office action.

Specifically, H.R. 1249 would:

* Streamline the patent review process.
* Establish a First-Inventor-to-File system, rather than a First-to-Invent-System.
* Ensure that the fees inventors pay to obtain patents are not used for unrelated government spending.
* Maximize the research potential of universities by providing them with enhanced patent protection and a greater share of the resources necessary to innovate.
* Ensure that a PTO Ombudsman helps guide small businesses through the patent process.
* Rein in frivolous lawsuits by limiting so-called "False Marking lawsuits" to competitors who have actually been hurt by products that have been labeled with inaccurate patent information.
* Put an end to practice of patenting methods of complying with the Tax Code by banning all tax-strategy patents.

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1249 by a bipartisan vote of 304 to 117 on June 23. The Senate passed a different version of patent reform, S. 23, by a vote of 95 to 5 on March 8. The differences between the two versions must be resolved before patent reform becomes law.

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