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Senate begins debate on patent reform

Grant Gross | March 1, 2011
The U.S. Senate is debating an overhaul of the nation's patent system this week, but several technology groups have opposed the bill, saying it would hurt innovation and overload the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The bill will improve U.S. competitiveness and add jobs, the OMB said in its statement.

The USPTO needs more resources, Leahy argued Tuesday. The agency has a backlog of 700,000 patent applications, with another 500,000 being currently examined, he said on the Senate floor.

"Among [the backlogs] could be the next medical miracle, the next energy breakthrough," he said.

But in late February, nine organizations representing small businesses, inventors and engineers sent a letter to senators urging them to reject the bill. The first-to-file patent rule would hurt small businesses and inventors, who don't have the resources to file quickly, said the letter, signed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers-USA (IEEE-USA), the National Congress of Inventor Organizations, and the National Small Business Association.

The first-to-file provision "disrupts the unique American start-up ecosystem that has led to America's standing as the global innovation leader -- the ecosystem that is vital to our businesses, but with which large firms have less expertise," the letter said. "The bill disadvantages companies that must seek outside financing and strategic partners, in favor of firms that can arrange all of their investment, testing, manufacturing, and marketing internally."

The groups called for a "streamlined" bill focused on increased funding for the USPTO. "If (and only if) increased examination quality does not result from increased funding and operational oversight, should Congress revisit broader patent reform," the letter said.

 

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