Years of discussion and wrangling by lawmakers, lawyers, biotechnology businesses, and others over reform of the patent system are expected to end today, when the Senate is scheduled to vote on a motion to end debate on the America Invents Act of 2011 and then vote on the bill itself.
The bill to be taken up by the Senate is word for word from HR 1249, the patent reform measure passed by the House of Representatives on June 23. Last year, the House used a similar maneuver when its then-Democratic leadership persuaded a bare majority to pass verbatim the Senate version of President Obama’s healthcare measure, over the strenuous objections of Republicans. In both cases, the maneuver avoids the additional time required by a conference committee to hammer out a compromise bill amenable to both chambers of Congress.
The Senate’s expected move on patent reform also has political overtones: it allows the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass America Invents, then send it to President Obama for his expected signature, while positioning the bill as one of several designed to jumpstart the economy and job creation this fall, as Obama steps up his re-election campaign.
“This bill will unleash American innovation and create good, well-paying jobs for American workers. It is commonsense legislation that goes to the heart of our shared agenda: reinvigorating the American economy and promoting job growth,” Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and author of the Senate bill (S.23), said in a statement after the House passed its version of America Invents.
By adopting the House version of patent reform, however, the Senate retreats from several key provisions of Leahy’s bill.