03.11.11

Senator Patrick Leahy and IBM Laud Progress on Patent Reform Legislation

Historic Bill Expected To Spur U.S. Innovation and Economic Growth

BURLINGTON, Vt. – (FRIDAY, 11 March 2011) -- U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and IBM Friday celebrated the overwhelming Senate approval of patent reform legislation as one of the country’s first steps toward modernizing the U.S. patent system which is essential to protecting inventors, preserving American innovation leadership and generating economic growth.  The bill passed this week, 95 to 5, with a tidal wave of bipartisan support.  If passed by the House and signed into law by President Obama, the America Invents Act would be the first comprehensive reform to the U.S. Patent System in nearly 60 years.

Patenting is increasingly important for protecting new innovations and helping a range of entities from entrepreneurs to large-to-medium-size companies to bring ideas to fruition and job creation.

Senator Leahy said, ''A patent system developed for a 1952 economy -- before the Internet, space flight, smart phones, computers, photocopiers, even before the IBM Selectric typewriter -- needs an update for 21st Century opportunities and challenges.”  Leahy, chief sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee which handled it, continued, “These reforms are a catalyst for creativity and for the jobs that go hand-in-hand with innovation.  We are keeping faith with the constitutional imperative of encouraging innovation and invention.” 

Senator Leahy also recognized the contributions of IBM’s technical community which helped Vermont secure its first place rank across the country for per capita patenting in 2010.  Of the 887 patents issued to Vermont residents last year, almost 600 were associated with IBM, accounting for two-thirds of Vermont's patent production for 2010.  Based on U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data and 2010 U.S Census data, Vermont ranks first in per capita patenting with an output of 1.4175 patents per 1,000 population. 

“For 100 years, IBM has shown that innovation is the backbone of our business and, as the top U.S patent recipient for the past 18 years, we recognize that modernizing our nation's patent system is essential to protecting inventors, preserving American innovation leadership and generating economic growth," said Janette Bombardier, director and senior location executive for IBM’s Vermont Center of Excellence for Enterprise Operations. “Senator Leahy has been championing patent reform legislation since 2006.  Without his leadership, we would not have achieved this historic milestone.  We urge the House to move quickly and complete its work on patent reform legislation to stimulate innovation and bolster our nation's competitiveness in the global economy.”

The America Invents Act will have an important impact on inventors in Vermont and across the country, by creating certainty for inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes; providing much needed resources to the USPTO, and fostering efficiencies to help grow the U.S. economy.  Key changes established by the legislation include:

§  Providing the USPTO the resources it needs to more effectively manage its operations and begin to reduce the significant patent application backlog.  Faster approval means economic growth because innovations can move into the market more quickly.

§  Establishing a "first-inventor-to-file" system, which is a much more efficient way to determine which inventor receives a patent on an invention. This would align the US with the rest of the world, which is important for any businesses that must operate in the increasingly global economy. It also would help with the USPTO's efforts to speed examination by taking advantage of work done by other patent offices.

§  Offering third parties the opportunity to submit information relevant to the patent application to examiners with commentary.  This strengthens patents by ensuring examiners have access to often difficult to access information and helps determine which aspects of a patent application are truly novel and deserving of a patent.

IBM invests billions each year in research and development, and the vast majority of the company's patents are filed in the U.S. In 2010, IBM inventors received a record-breaking total of 5,896 U.S. patents while becoming the first company ever issued more than 5,000 patents in a single year.  IBM strongly supports S. 23, the America Invents Act, because it works for all members of the intellectual property community, bolsters our nation's competitiveness in the global economy, and stimulates innovation.

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