03.31.09

“Closer Than Ever” To Patent Reform Agreement

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, March 31, 2009) – The Senate Judiciary Committee continued to make progress on patent reform legislation at an executive business meeting Tuesday morning.

The Committee adopted an amendment sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and senior Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that adds a provision to increase the ability of government-operated, contractor-owned facilities to reinvest licensing royalties for scientific research, development and education.  The amendment also establishes a trial teleworking program for the Patent and Trademark Office.

The business meeting Tuesday was a continuation of the Committee’s consideration of the Patent Reform Act of 2009.  Leahy and Hatch introduced the legislation to make the first major reforms to the nation’s patent system in more than 50 years.  On March 26, the Committee adopted an amendment sponsored by Leahy, Hatch, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).

The Committee will meet again on Thursday, April 2, to continue consideration of the Patent Reform Act.  Leahy said Tuesday that Committee Members are close to resolving differences on important issues including damages and post-grant review.

“Over the last several days, we have made more progress on several of the most contentious issues in this debate, including damages, post-grant review, venue, and inequitable conduct,” said Leahy.  “Today, I am happy to announce that we are closer than ever to a final agreement on these issues.  I want to thank Senator Specter and Senator Feinstein for their courage and leadership in bringing together parties on all sides of this issue.  As I said when we began consideration of this bill on Thursday, the compromise bill we end up with may not include all the changes that I supported, nor may it include all the changes that others on this Committee would like to see, but it will make important progress in modernizing our patent system.”

The debate on S. 515, the Patent Reform Act, on will continue on Thursday, April 2, at 10:00 a.m.  The business meeting will be webcast live online.  Reporters interested in attending the mark up are advised to contact the Senate Press Galleries to reserve a seat.

The Leahy-Hatch-Whitehouse-Specter-Feinstein-Kyl amendment adopted on March 26 includes language to:

  • Tighten the language on prior art and derivation proceedings
  • Clarify that first-window post-grant review proceedings must be instituted by the Director
  • Corrects drafting errors in the inter partes reexamination section and elsewhere
  • Adds a provision that permits patent holders to “virtually mark” a product by providing the address of a publicly available website that associates the patented article with the number of the patent

The Leahy-Hatch amendment adopted Tuesday is available online.

An archived webcast of Tuesday’s business meeting is available

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
Executive Business Meeting
March 31, 2009

Today, we continue our work on a priority legislative matter within this Committee’s jurisdiction—patent reform.  Patent reform is an important way that this Committee can contribute to restoring our economic engine and supporting economic recovery.  Innovation and American inventors have been suffering from an outdated patent system.

When this Committee began meeting last Thursday, the consensus was emerging.  Senator Hatch, Senator Feinstein, Senator Specter and Senator Kyl all echoed what I have long believed – there is no question that patent reform is urgently needed.

Over the last several days, we have made more progress on several of the most contentious issues in this debate, including damages, post-grant review, and venue.  Today, I am happy to announce that we are closer than ever to a final agreement on these issues. 

I want to thank Senator Specter and Senator Feinstein for their courage and leadership in bringing together parties on all sides of this issue.  That is no easy task.  The voices heard in this debate include inventors and innovators, big and small; bio companies and pharmaceutical companies; high tech interests and the financial services industry.  All have a different perspective on the patent system, but all agree that a modern, vibrant patent system is crucial to our economic prosperity in the years to come. 

Senators Feinstein, Specter and I have come to an agreement in principle on the key issues that have remained contentious for so long.  The principles center on the gatekeeper concept for damages that Senators Feinstein and Specter have developed.  As I said when we began consideration of this bill on Thursday, the compromise bill we end up with may not include all the changes that I supported, nor may it include all the changes that others on this Committee would like to see, but it will make important progress in modernizing our patent system. 

We will work quickly, but deliberately, to reduce the remaining issues, and will plan to consider a comprehensive amendment on Thursday. 

Today, I hope the Committee will adopt another bipartisan amendment.  This one addresses issues raised by Senator Grassley and Senator Coburn.  They have been important contributors to the Committee’s consideration of the Patent Reform Act, and I am pleased to be able to include their amendments.

I understand that there have been several additional amendments circulated.  I hope members will postpone calling up amendments relating to damages, post-grant review and venue until we consider a comprehensive amendment on which we have been hard at work. 

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