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May 01, 2010 (Vol. 30, No. 9)

Patent Law Reform in the Works Again

Third Time Could Be the Charm for Legislative Efforts that Benefit Investors and Job Growth

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    William L. Warren

    The most sweeping reform proposed for U.S. patent law in more than 55 years has made renewed progress through the legislative system. A Manager’s Amendment to the Bill for Patent Reform (S.515) was issued on March 4, 2010, from the Senate Judiciary Committee by Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), former Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

    This is the third consecutive Congress in which Sens. Leahy and Hatch have presented patent-reform legislation in their stated effort to streamline the patent system to benefit inventors and to facilitate economic growth and jobs. 

    The compromise Senate Judiciary bill retains most of the provisions of the Patent Reform Act of 2009, including the transition to a first-inventor-to-file system. Significant modifications would affect patent prosecution, such as defining limitations on the inventor’s own prior art, establishing a procedure for supplemental examination, implementing a new inter partes patent review system, and extending patent fees-setting authority. Other revisions affecting patent litigation include a pretrial damages review, definition of the terms for willful infringement, limits on false marking claims, and interlocutory appeals.

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