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National Journal - House Passes Sweeping Patent-Reform Legislation

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By Josh Smith
National Journal

After a week of frantic legislative wrangling, the House of Representatives approved historic patent-reform legislation on Thursday, overcoming opposition from some original supporters who opposed 11th hour changes to the bill.

The bill's sponsor, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, was able to appease House appropriators and win passage, 304-117, a week after it was originally scheduled for a vote. If the bill becomes law, it would be the first major overhaul of the patent system in more than 50 years.


In order to win over House appropriators, who feared that the bill's original language would have given the Patent and Trademark Office too much control over its fees, Smith offered a manager's amendment that establishes a fund for excess PTO fees to be controlled by Congress.

The amendment easily passed but the deal infuriated Democrats and some industry groups who had supported the original bill.

Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., ranking member of the Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee, said the amendment amounted to a bait-and-switch, leading to a bill that would not stop Congress from using PTO funds for other programs.

"We passed a bill out of our Judiciary Committee that would end that diversion, and all of a sudden we come to the floor and a manager's amendment is being offered that, if it is not defeated, will undermine that unifying thing that has held the groups together and allowed people to support the bill," Watt said.


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