Leahy: America Invents Act Is Bipartisan, Consensus Legislation

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011) – The U.S. Senate is considering H.R.1249, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, legislation that would make the first comprehensive reforms to the nation’s patent system in nearly 60 years.  The Senate voted overwhelmingly in March – 95-5 – to pass similar legislation to improve patent quality and reduce patent application backlogs at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead Senate sponsor of the legislation, delivered the following remarks Wednesday when the Senate resumed consideration of the bill.


Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On H.R. 1249, The America Invents Act
September 7, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery

The Senate began debate last night on the America Invents Act.  I am pleased that the Senate voted with a strong bipartisan majority of 93 votes to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed, and I look forward to our proceeding to this important legislation, and ultimately passing it to help spur innovation, bolster the economy and create jobs.  This is a bipartisan consensus bill largely similar to the legislation that the Senate passed by a vote of 95-5 in March.  The Senate can and should move immediately to pass this bill, which will help create good jobs, encourage innovation and strengthen our recovering economy.  I want to commend Senator Hatch, the longtime Republican lead sponsor of this measure; Senator Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Senator Kyl, the Republican whip; for their support of the bill, and for their commitment to seeing patent reform become a reality.  This is an effort that we have worked at for nearly six years.  It has only become more important to the economy, and the time has come to enact this bipartisan, bicameral legislation.

I ask consent to include in the Record the Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on H.R. 1249 from the Obama administration.  The statement describes this bill as “a balanced and well-crafted effort to enhance the services to patent applicants and America’s innovators provided by the United States Patent Office.”  The SAP emphasizes that the bill “support[s] the USPTO’s efforts to improve patent quality and reduce the backlog of patent applications, reducing domestic and global patenting costs for U.S. companies.”  I underscore these points because these are exactly the goals that Chairman Smith and I set out achieve when we first introduced patent reform legislation six years ago. 

Improved patent quality will benefit businesses across the economic spectrum.  The America Invents Act will improve patent quality by expanding the role of third parties in the patent examination process, creating a stream-lined first-window post grant review to quickly challenge and weed out patents that never should have issued in the first place, and improving the funding mechanism for the patent office to more effectively confront its backlog of nearly 700,000 patent applications.  For years, low quality patents have been a drain on our patent system, and in turn our economy, by undermining the value of what it means to hold a patent.  Higher quality patents will infuse greater certainty into the patent system, which will better incentivize investment in American businesses, create jobs and grow our economy.   

The America Invents Act is bipartisan legislation that will lead to long-needed improvements in our patent laws and system.  No one Senator, industry or interest group got everything it wanted in this bill.  But that is the nature of compromise, and this bill represents a significant step forward in preparing the patent office, and in turn businesses, to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century. 

Support for the bill has grown over time and it is now endorsed by an extensive list of supporters.

I strongly believe that we should grant this legislation final approval.  The Senate and House have now both considered it. A host of associations and interested parties from the private sector have endorsed passing the bill without further amendment.  Any amendment would force reconsideration by the House and more unnecessarily delay.  Patent reform legislation has been debated exhaustively in both the Senate and House for the past four Congresses.  It is the product of dozens of hearings, and weeks of committee markups.  We should proceed to the bill and pass it.     

This is the time for the Senate to serve the interests of the American people by passing the important legislation before us.  We have before us a consensus bill that will facilitate invention, innovation and job creation today.  This can help everyone from startups and small businesses to our largest, cutting edge companies. 

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