Judiciary Committee Begins Work On Patent Reform Legislation, Mark Up To Continue Next Week

WASHINGTON (Thursday, March 26, 2009) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Thursday that backers of patent reform legislation are making progress to resolve key issues that would make the first significant changes to the nation’s patent system in more than 50 years.

Leahy and senior Committee member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the Patent Reform Act At on March 3.  On March 10, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony from stakeholders and interested parties about the need for patent reform.  At a business meeting Thursday, the Committee adopted a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Leahy and Hatch, and Committee members Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).  The panel is expected to continue consideration of the legislation on Tuesday, March 31. 

“We are making progress toward the kind of consensus that Senator Feinstein talked about at our hearing earlier this month,” said Leahy.  “By continuing to work together in good faith, I believe we can report a good bill.  Patent reform is an important way that this Committee can contribute to restoring our economic engine and supporting economic recovery.”

Leahy continued, “While we have been deliberating, innovation and American inventors have been suffering from an outdated patent system.  The time has finally come for Congress to act.  The time for posturing has ended and the time for reaching agreement has arrived.  The way to get to a resolution is not to stall this process but to redouble our efforts.  I appreciate those who are working cooperatively and collaboratively as we devise language that will allow us to respond to the growing consensus that we must modernize our patent laws.  I want our language to allow innovators in all sectors of our economy to flourish.”

The Leahy-Hatch-Whitehouse-Specter-Feinstein-Kyl amendment adopted Thursday 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

Leahy, Hatch and others are working to resolve issues including damages, post-grant review, and others.  The Judiciary Committee will meet again to continue the debate on S. 515, the Patent Reform Act, on Tuesday, March 31, 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.

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