Federal Relations

March 9, 2011

Senate Passes Patent Overhaul Bill

By a vote of 95-5, the Senate approved S. 23, a measure aimed at updating the nation’s patent system for the first time in decades.  Supporters of the bill believe it will foster innovation and bolster US economic growth and competitiveness around the world.  The debate now moves to the House where it faces an uncertain future.

The Senate-approved bill would change procedures for issuing patents and for challenging their validity once they are issued, as well as codify a method for calculating damage awards in patent lawsuits.  It also would implement a system to grant patent awards to inventors who are “first to file” rather than based on the current criterion of “first to invent” — a change proponents argue will simplify the patent process and reduce the number of challenges.

The House may take issue with the Senate bill’s language to shift to a “first to file” system and to allow the patent office to keep the revenue it generates in fees.  Some House conservatives have voiced skepticism about both proposals. 

The Office of Federal Relations will continue to monitor the progress of this measure as it moves through the House.