By Donald Zuhn --
On Thursday, the Senate passed the House version of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (H.R. 1249) by an 89-9 vote (see "Senate Passes H.R. 1249"). The legislation now awaits the President's signature before becoming law. That signing could come as early as Monday, after the President spent Friday morning and early afternoon in Richmond, VA discussing his jobs creation plan, and Sunday attending September 11 10th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremonies in New York, Shanksville, PA, and the Pentagon. While the patent community awaits the bill's signing, a number of organizations and trade groups have issued statements regarding the Senate's passage of H.R. 1249.
In a statement issued by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the group "applaud[ed] the Senate's passage of The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act as it marks the conclusion of a long and vigorous debate on how to best modernize our nation's patent system." BIO stated that "[t]he improvements made by the bill will benefit all sectors of the national economy by enhancing patent quality and the efficiency, objectivity, predictability and transparency of the U.S. patent system." Noting that "[s]trong intellectual property protection is critical for [small biotech] companies," the biotech industry group contended that such companies would "benefit from the improvements to our nation's patent system made by this legislation. While commending Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) as well as House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) "for their tireless efforts over the past several years," and noting that the group was "pleased that this bill is now headed to President Obama for his signature," BIO also "urge[d] the Congress to fulfill its commitments as part of this bill to end fee diversion at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) once and for all."
The Innovation Alliance released a statement in which the group commended Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Conyers, House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Melvin Watt (D-NC), Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), "and other congressional leaders too numerous to list . . . for their leadership and unwavering commitment to trying to get the policy right." However, the Innovation Alliance expressed its "regrets that the Act does not end once and for all the diversion of patent office user fees for general federal government purposes," noting that "[e]nding fee diversion is the one issue in this debate that has united all patent stakeholders and most policymakers." The group "believe[s] that as long as the possibility of fee diversion continues, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cannot reliably make multi-year plans, hire and retain personnel, and improve operations and information technology, all of which are critical to processing the nearly 700,000 patents in the backlog of pending patent applications," adding that "[d]elayed patent issuance is tantamount to foregone innovation and unrealized American jobs." Despite the now likely enactment of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, the Innovation Alliance stated that it "remains committed to continuing our efforts in conjunction with other patent stakeholders to ensure that the USPTO retains all of the user fees it earns." According to the Innovation Alliance website, the group "represents innovators, patent owners and stakeholders from a diverse range of industries that believe in the critical importance of maintaining a strong patent system that supports innovative enterprises of all sizes."
The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform opened its statement by suggesting that "after six years of hard work and debate in both the House and Senate, [the Senate's passage of H.R 1249 was] the last legislative step necessary for significantly strengthening the U.S. patent system for all American inventors." The group contended that "[t]he Leahy-Smith America Invents Act gives our nation a modern, world-class patent system that allows innovation to flourish and create new industries that will add thousands of well-paying jobs for American workers," adding that the "landmark bill . . . will encourage American innovation for years to come." Stating that the legislation "provides a package of clearly needed improvements to our patent system that will help innovators compete in today's global marketplace," the Coalition stated that "[i]nventors and patent applicants will have a simpler, more transparent and objective path to patent protection," and "[a]t the same time, [will] benefit from a reduction in the time, costs and unpredictability associated with the current system." The group concluded by noting that it "will closely monitor the new Patent and Trademark Fee Reserve Fund to ensure that all patent fees remain within the Patent and Trademark Office and are promptly available to serve the needs of inventors and the public."
In a short statement issued by the Coalition for Patent Fairness, the group (which members include Adobe, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Google, Intel, Intuit, Micron, Oracle, RIM, SAP, and Symantec) "congratulate[d] Chairman Leahy, Chairman Smith, and additional key Members of Congress on the passage of H.R. 1249, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act," and "applaud[ed] the House and the Senate for passing a bill that takes significant steps toward strengthening America's patent system and promoting innovation." Noting that the Senate's passage of H.R. 1249 "marks the end of more than six years of debate and represents a consensus amongst many critical stakeholders," the CPF declared that "[t]he bill contains critical provisions that will advance and harmonize our patent system, while making the U.S. more competitive in the international marketplace."