The U.S. Senate recently began debate on the Patent Reform Act introduced by senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The legislation was introduced on January 25 and includes several provisions designed to make the patent application process simpler.
Key components of the legislation include a shift from a "first-to-invent" model to a "first-to-file" model, as well as a new "fast-tracked" application process. Under the proposed system, applicants will be able to pay a higher fee for expedited processing, which could take as little as one year.
During the Senate debate, Leahy urged lawmakers not to allow small issues to delay passage of the legislation. Senators offered a number of proposed amendments, including proposals to reduce the fast-tracked processing fee for small businesses and to establish new satellite offices for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Leahy proposed changing the title of the legislation to the America Invents Act. "The America Invents Act provides the tools the PTO needs to separate the inventive wheat from the chaff, which will help business bring new products to market and create jobs," Leahy told the Senate.
Leahy noted that the bill has the support of both business and labor. Several companies and organizations have officially backed the legislation, including the National Venture Capital Association, the United Steelworkers, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Association of American Universities.