Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee On Passage of H.R. 5108, To Establish the Law School Clinic Certification Program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Today, the Senate has acted to ensure that law school students can gain valuable experience providing legal assistance to inventors before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  This legislation is a clear win-win:  students will gain tangible, hands-on experience in a vital area of the law, and inventors and small businesses will receive valuable legal assistance with their patent and trademark applications.  By promoting innovation and helping creators turn their inventions into reality, the American public benefits from the results.

The USPTO plays a key role in driving the engine of our economy.  Close to 600,000 patent applications and 450,000 trademark class applications are filed with the Office each year.  I am proud that Vermont routinely ranks among the most innovative States that have the highest patents per capita each year.  By serving America’s innovators, the USPTO helps Vermonters and citizens across the country build their businesses and bring their inventions to the global marketplace.

Three years ago, Congress came together to pass the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011, the greatest transformation to our patent system in over 60 years.  We worked for six years to pass this legislation to bring our patent system into the 21st Century.  It helped simplify the process for patent approval, reduced backlogs at the USPTO, harmonized the U.S. patent system with the rest of the world, and improved patent quality.

Importantly, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act also contained key provisions to help inventors when they appear before the USPTO; something this law school clinic legislation builds on today.  Because of the America Invents Act, the USPTO now has four satellite offices around the country to make the Office more accessible to inventors and businesses.  The USPTO’s pro bono program is expanding nationwide to provide resources to individuals who appear before the Office without counsel.  The Patent Ombudsman for Small Businesses provides patent filing support and services.

The Law School Clinic Certification Program established by this legislation expands the USPTO’s strong efforts to support inventors and small businesses, while training our next generation of lawyers in how this important agency operates.  After six years of a successful pilot program run by the USPTO, it is time to pass this legislation and make the program permanent.  Representative Hakeem Jeffries should be congratulated for his work on this bill in the House.  I thank my fellow Senators for joining me in support of this sensible program and continuing our work to support innovators in our home States and across the Nation.


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