Senate passes patent reform legislation

The U.S. Senate cleared a bill passed by the House in June that will fundamentally change the way patents are reviewed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The America Invents Act, which passed 89-9 in the Senate, now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature. The bill will allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to set its own fees and exercise greater control over its budget. That means the agency will have more funding and will be able to address some 700,000 applications that have been backed up and are waiting for review, which, in turn, reduces the time it takes to give inventions legal protection and speed up new products coming to market, the bill's supporters say.

The legislation addresses every part of the process, such as setting new procedures to review issued patents while putting a limit on some litigation. When it comes to funding, the patent office will be able to increase fees paid to inventors and patent owners. According to the agency, more than $800 million in fees have been diverted by lawmakers to non-patent purposes.

"This legislation should enable us to access all of our fees," David Kappos, director of the patent office, said in a statement. "Having access to all of our fee collections will enable us to immediately start hiring new examiners, instituting new patent acceleration tools, and aggressively modernizing our IT infrastructure."

Wireless patent company InterDigital, which is the subject of interest from companies such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), said it applauded passage of the legislation.  

"The America Invents Act enhances key aspects of the U.S. patent system and maintains as undisturbed the long-established judicial principles that allow innovative companies to be compensated for their inventions," William Merritt, InterDigital's president and CEO said in a release. "We believe that a fully-funded USPTO, in connection with this new legislation, will directly benefit InterDigital and other creative and innovative companies in driving U.S. economic growth."

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this InterDigital release

Related articles:
Apple, Ericsson, RIM and others win Nortel patents for $4.5B 
HTC expands legal fight against Apple using Google patents
Will patent pools ever come about in the LTE world?

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